Friday, March 8, 2013

The Devil's Carnival

I said it before in my review of Pitch Perfect (click here to read) I’m not a fan of musicals unless they offer something different and not just people randomly breaking out into song. Repo! The Genetic Opera was one of the few that I’ve come to embrace due to its goth/industrial vibe, dark Shakespearean storyline and crazy cast of characters. It’s not a good movie by any means, but it’s plenty entertaining and features some great songs (I’m all about “Zydrate Anatomy” and “Genetic Emancipation”). I saw it three times in the theater (the only way you could see it was when the Repo Traveling Roadshow would come to town for a weekend because Lionsgate refused to give it a wide release) and even participated in a shadowcast for a couple of performances (where I met my current girlfriend).

When I heard that filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman and writer Terrance Zdunich would be teaming up to make another dark musical you can believe that I was more than a little interested. Then I heard reports that it was more of a short film than a feature and that it would intentionally be brought from town to town in another traveling roadshow put together by Bousman.
It did come to Chicago, but I chose to skip it and wait for video. I’m glad I did because if I had spent $20+ on seeing this 55 minute film in the theater I would have been plenty pissed. This is the exact opposite of Repo because it is pure shit.

Basically this film is the set-up for a larger story involving a war between heaven and hell. The Devil’s Carnival is actually the underworld ruled by Lucifer (Terrance Zdunich), where he and a group of demons in the guise of carnie folk (Emilie Autumn, Alexa Vega, Bill Moseley, Nivek Ogre and more) torture the souls of sinners that fall into their domain. The three newest arrivals are the grieving father John (Sean Patrick Flanery), kleptomaniac Ms. Merrywood (Briana Evigan) and the naïve teenager Tamara (Jessica Lowndes), and they will be forced to relive their crimes over and over for all eternity.
There is no traditional narrative here; it feels like a bunch of interconnected pretentious short films about each of the three sinners. The problem is that each of these characters are boring and unlikable and the more time the film spent with them the more I became disinterested in the entire production. There are so many different characters to keep track of, some aren’t even given a name (if I didn’t know that Paul Sorvino was playing God in advance I would never have guessed that’s who he was supposed to be), that the whole movie feels like a hastily thrown together mish mash of ideas with zero direction behind them.

The acting is pretty atrocious all around as are the song and dance numbers. I figured that if there was one thing to watch this flick for it would have been the musical aspect since 90% of the songs written for Repo were highly listenable and catchy. I like one out of the myriad used here, “Grace for Sale”, and that’s it. The rub is that it’s played over the end credits. Boo! I’m a fan of Emilie Autumn, but even her song “Prick! Goes the Scorpion’s Tale” is lackluster at best. Worst of all is that some people who cannot carry a tune at all are allowed to sing, namely Sean Patrick Flanery. He is so off key during his one number that his voice cracks more than once. My ears bled a little.
The cinematography is decent, Lucifer’s make-up is pretty rad, the costumes are cool and the entire production is colorful and rich, but with no story to fill out the scenery I found this flick an absolute chore to sit through. And the crowning failure is that Bausman and company assume that their audience, mainly Repo fans, will automatically dig this misfire so much that they will be clamoring for the inevitable sequel that is set up out of the blue in the short’s final moments. I know for a fact that most of the Repo fans I'm acquainted with have zero interest in the follow-up, myself included.

Nonsensical, vague and just plain dull, The Devil’s Carnival is a huge letdown to this Repo! The Genetic Opera fan. I expected more from Bousman and Co. after their triumphant first collaboration, and seeing how Bousman’s skills as a filmmaker have grown over the years (compare Saw II to his amazing remake of Mother’s Day) I’d have to say that this is definitely a gigantic step backwards. I’d even go as far as to say this was a vanity project on his part. Well, I’m not buying it. Not at all.
By the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes, and thy name is The Devil’s Carnival. Next stop, the hell of direct to video releases.

1.5 out of 5

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