It’s always good to see a beloved team working on a new project, and if there were ever a team that needed more projects, it would be the one that pulled off one of my all time favorite musicals Repo! The Genetic Opera. So when they announced that not only did they have a new film out, but that they were going on tour with it, I was heartbroken to find I would just miss it because I would be moved out by the time it rolled into New York City. However, it has finally been added to Netflix and I could watch it as many times as I wanted, even though I’d never get to experience the tour. So how does this short film hold up?
Let’s take a look at The Devil’s Carnival.
The Devil’s Carnival is about the journey through Hell for three newly dead souls: grieving father John, thieving Ms. Merrywood, and trusting and spineless Tamara. They each venture into the carnival, unaware of what has happened to them and each encounter their own trials, which they are all but doomed to fail. The trials of these souls also link to three Aesop’s fables, which the Devil is telling to a small child. I won’t spoil the ending, but it does leave some interesting questions to be answered about the world of the film and how events will unravel in subsequent films. At about 55 minutes long, this film’s simple premise actually manages to fit in quite a lot in terms of world building and plot, proving that some film makers can do in an hour what other can’t do with a whole saga.
The first thing you will notice is that, despite being on a shoe-string budget, the film looks fantastic. It’s dark, dreary, grimy, and feels otherworldly in a subtle, almost unnoticeable way. There are slight distinctions between Heaven, Earth, and Hell in the choice of color, lighting and costuming. The cinematography is as spot on as it was in Repo and uses the same creepy, gothic imagery to entice the audience. Speaking of which the costuming and make up in this movie is some of the best I have ever seen, especially on such a small budget. The carnies are all disturbing to look at, especially the hobo and Painted Doll, while the costuming for the main three in Hell are exaggerations of their roles in life which helps us to relate to them. The best done role is, thankfully, the Devil, who is more than just red paint and horns. The white-splattered face, huge nails, and house robe add to the ominous but seductive presence of the character, making him the most engaging character of the film.
The music is one of the best aspects of the film, ranging from different tempos and genres to each new tale of the Devil, with an amazing cast of actors and singers to pull it off. The best song is arguably In All My Dreams I Drown, which is not part of the movie proper, for its amazing duet between Tamara and the Devil. I also greatly enjoyed Prick! Goes the Scorpion’s Tail and A Penny for a Tale whose singers completely steal the entire movie for me. I’m glad they are sticking with the musical genre because they do it so well, and manage to make the story feel whole through the use of the musical numbers rather than feeling forced. The lyrics are clever, the instrumentation is perfect for a film taking place in Hell, and they are well-balanced in their placement throughout the film. I could listen to the soundtrack all day, even if I had to personally go to Hell and retrieve it myself.
One of the big issues with the film is that due to the way the narrative is portrayed, the events of the film can be somewhat confusing. For example, I watched this film with a friend who was completely unfamiliar with the premise and her constant questions of “Wait, what’s happening?” or “Wait, what’s going on?” For example, when the characters first die, it is unclear how they died (except for John) or that they actually died because of how it was shot. This isn’t necessarily bad, as it forces the audience to pay attention and look for clues, but for fans new to this unique style it could be a little confusing. It doesn’t help that emotional arcs also have to be squeezed in at just under an hour, making the film feel a little rushed.
In the end, The Devil’s Carnival is a strong first step in an upcoming trilogy and really sets up the rest of the films to be just as stylistically and narratively dark. While it is short and does have some issues, I truly believe that it is worth seeing, especially if you were a fan of their first film. Part Two, entitled The Librarian, is set to come out later this year and I can’t see what else they have in store.
– Amazing music.
– Strong acting
– Phenomenal costuming and cinematography.
– Pacing was a little rushed.
– Sometimes can be a little confusing.