It seems like only yesterday when I approached Michael with the goal of conning him into going to Pittsburgh with me to see a movie that I figured he probably wouldn’t like. The conversation went something like this: “So this guy Terrance Zdunich and Darren Lynn Bousman, THE GUY WHO DIRECTED SAW II, has this movie coming out. It’s a horror movie about the future where organ repossessions are legal! Oh and by the way it’s a musical.” Even with that last part in there, he did agree to go with me. And less than a month after that first showing I was on my phone convincing Kyle that he should go see the “fucking amazing rock opera” with Michael and I in Philadelphia. It seems like only yesterday, but it’s been almost 3 1/2 years since Repo! the Genetic Opera.
This time, when I heard that Darren and Terrance were coming out with a new movie, the decision to go was a no-brainer. I didn’t even have to use my con-artist skills to get someone to go with me. Basically I just told Kyle “Darren and Terrance are coming out with a new movie! I got tickets for the 24th of April! I’ll pick you up at 8!”
And so at 8:30 last night Kyle and I took our places in line for The Devils Carnival!
Now I’m going to pause for a warning dear readers. Beyond the following cut will be rampant, unmarked spoilers for this movie. So for those of you who have yet to see the movie and don’t want to get spoiled, or those of you who just don’t want to read a lot, I’ll give you a non-spoilery tl;dr version of my review.
TL;DR: Devils Carnival was AMAZEBALLS
Once everyone got into the theater and got seated we were treated to all of the before movie festivities. This included a performer who escaped from a straight jacket while standing on broken glass, a costume contest, and an 11-minute behind-the-scenes documentary on Repo! the Genetic Opera.
Once the movie started I was immediately drawn in, especially because right from the get-go it is very hard to follow if you’re not thinking about it. The story is based around hell being a sort of carnival. People who have committed moral sins, based on Aesop’s Fables, end up at the carnival where they seemingly get a chance to redeem themselves. However the carnies are there to do whatever they can to prove that the people don’t deserve a second chance.
Three people end up at the carnival in this first episode. John who has lost himself to grief and actually kills himself at the beginning of the movie, spends his time obsessively looking for his son who has seemingly passed away before the movie started (Grief and His Due). Tamara is a woman entirely too gullible and trusting and ends up being shot by her ex boyfriend (The Scorpion and the Frog). Ms. Merrywood is a greedy woman who wants riches above all else and whose life is about to end at the hands of the police (The Dog and the Shadow).
Once at the carnival, each of our sinners is tested. If they fail, they’re doomed to stay at the carnival forever.
Tamara is given the chance to not trust someone when she meets Scorpion who wants her to become part of his act. Unfortunately, she does end up trusting him and he betrays her.
Ms. Merrywood is given the chance to pass up on a very large diamond that she could win via a carnival game. She plays anyway and loses everything.
John chases the shade of his son throughout the carnival, finally finding himself at the feet of Lucifer. It is then that he proclaims that he does not want to grieve the loss of his son. Lucifer lets John go to Heaven. But God, strangely enough doesn’t seem to think John should be there.
We find out at the end that some changes are being made around the carnival. Lucifer intends to put Heaven out of business all together. The war is on.
Add this all to some epic musical performances by the likes of Ivan Moody, Emilie Autumn, Terrance Zdunich and Sean Patrick Flannery and you have something absolutely amazing! While it did seem a bit fast-paced, and DLB even admitted if he could do it again he probably wouldn’t have used three fabels for the first movie, it was still pretty much the greatest movie ever…well, next to Repo! that is.
Now, a few of my own thoughts..
It seems that each guest has two carnies “assigned” to them. One carnie seems to be assigned to lead the guest astray, and the other performs for the crowd once the sinner has failed, speaking of morality and what the sinner has done wrong. I’m unsure as to whether or not the failed sinners become part of the carnival as carnies, or if they’re just guests forever.
I’m also unsure of how John sparked the war and why Lucifer let him go to heaven. Because when it comes down to it, John could redeem himself for the moral sin, but not for the mortal sin of killing himself. And perhaps that’s the rebellion that Lucifer wanted. Because at the beginning it seemed as if God was oblivious to what was happening at the carnival, but once John entered Heaven, God could hear the carnies singing and it seemed to be driving him crazy.
I’m really not sure where the next episodes will lead, but Terrance and Darren both hinted that when all is said and done, God may not necessarily be the good guy in these movies. It’s a strange twist, but one I’m looking forward to seeing play out!
All in all, I’m really not sure what I expected from The Devil’s Carnival, but what I saw was definitely not it. And for once, a movie not being what I expected was awesome. I absolutely love what Terrance and Darren managed to come up with. I think they picked a wonderful cast1 and the songs fit right in. I love the dark and macabre atmosphere, I love that it wasn’t easy to immediately figure out what was going on, and I love the fact that it’s focused on Aesop’s Fables / tales of morality.
The Devils Carnival, like Repo! definitely isn’t a movie for everyone. In fact I’m pretty sure that more people would dislike it than like it… However I loved it and if the Philadelphia stop of the road tour wasn’t tomorrow, I probably would be going.
Now lets just hope someone doesn’t write a book totally ripping this movie off that gets turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Jude Law… /bitter
- And no not just because it’s got a lot of Repo! people / Emilie Autumn in it ↩