The Devil's Carnival
The Grimmest Show On Earth
“Rock Opera” isn't something you normally hear when talking about a horror movie. It's not something you normally hear in 2012, either. A loose definition of rock opera is a music album with a storyline told through multiple parts. These rock operas proved so popular that full-length movies were created, based on the story and songs. The most famous examples would be The Who's Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Pink Floyd's The Wall. The genre died out by the 80's and was long thought forgotten. A few years ago, a pseudo-horror movie movie written and composed by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich came out that made people change they way they saw rock operas. That movie was Repo! The Genetic Opera. The movie didn't have much appeal to me, so I've never seen it, but Zdunich's latest movie intrigued me.
The Devil's Carnival is a 2012 experimental horror/rock opera starring Sean Patrick Flannery (Boondock Saints, Masters Of Horror: The Damned Thing) as John, Briana Evigan (Sorority Row, Step Up 2) as Ms. Merrywood and Jessica Lowndes (90210, Autopsy) as Tamara. Initially unconnected, the three are brought together following their deaths: a grieving John commits suicide over the loss of his son, thieving Ms. Merrywood is gunned down during a police standoff, and naïve Tamara is killed by her enraged boyfriend. They awaken in what looks like a large carnival. Lucifer (Terrance Zdunich) reads three Aesop's Fables to John's missing son which parallel the three stories in the movie. The Ticket-Keeper (Dayton Callie, Deadwood, Undisputed) prepares the carnival workers for their new guests, selecting the Painted Doll (Emilie Autumn), the Twin (Nivek Ogre from the band Skinny Puppy), the Hobo Clown (Ivan Moody from the band Five Finger Death Punch) and the Scorpion (Marc Senter, Cabin Fever 2, I Know Who Killed Me). John and Ms. Merrywood find each other and approach the Ticket-Kepper's booth where he explains the 666 rules of the Devil's carnival and the consequences for breaking them. John goes searching for his missing son while Ms. Merrywood engages in a game of chance with the Twin. At the same time, Tamara meets the Scorpion and instantly trusts him and agrees to take part in his knife-throwing act. Ms. Merrywood loses her game of chance, stripped of her clothes and whipped by the Tamer (Shawn Crahan aka Clown from the band Slipknot). As this is happening, the Hobo Clown sings “A Penny For A Tale” describing Ms. Merrywood's downfall. Tamara finds the Scorpion kissing the Painted-Doll, but she still trusts him. She goes through with the knife-throwing act, only for the final knife to hit her in the chest. The Painted-Doll sings of her demise with the song “Prick! Goes The Scorpion's Tale!” Only John remains, desperately searching for his son. He finds his son in a room with Lucifer, but it is an illusion. What does Lucifer have in store for John and how does Heaven play into it?
That's how Emilie Autumn looks on a weekday
I think it's safe to say that I'm not exactly a big fan of musicals. I've seen Les Miserables and Miss Saigon on Broadway and I've enjoyed occasional musical episode of The Simpsons, but that's about as far as it goes. You won't see me singing the praises of Glee, though that's not just because there's singing in it. The initial idea of a horror movie with singing will initially keep many people away, but it would be a mistake to miss The Devil's Carnival. The songs are all very good and incredibly catchy. You'll have the initial “Devil's Carnival” theme stuck in your head for days. I may not have even watched it if not for well-known metal musicians Shawn Crahan and Ivan Moody were in it. Moody's hauntingly hollow voice sounds fantastic in the movie and gives a certain weight to his song. His performance is also very solid. The same can be said for Emilie Autumn and Nivek Ogre, though their roles are less of a stretch than for some other people.
While the songs do play a central role in the movie, thankfully not everything is in song. All three main characters play their roles well and never look out of their depth. The movie also contains small roles form Bill Mosely, Alexa Vega, and Paul Sorvino as God. The sets and costumes look utterly amazing as they are rich in both detail and color. Director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Repo! The Genetic Opera) does a good job of capturing everything without being too intrusive. The horror in the movie is more subversive and introspective than most horror films. If you're looking for genuine scares and blood, this isn't for you. The Devil's Carnival has a deeper fear to it that can easily be missed through all the whimsy and bright colors. The movie is very short, only about an hour long, and the movie moves quickly, which could make the story hard to follow.
If you're 555, then I'm 666
The Devil's Carnival is not your typical horror movie, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. The movie smartly casts real singers and it pays off as all the songs sound great. The story is engrossing and entertaining, but just a little too short. Everyone puts in a good performance thanks to solid writing and direction. The costumes and sets look great and are truly a feast for the eyes. The horror of the movie will not scare you, but it may make you feel uneasy. If you like horror or hate it, you'll still enjoy The Devil's Carnival.