As September peaks out of the dog days of summer, the desire to watch the creepy and spooky sets in and so, it’s time to bring out some of those Halloween-y classics out before Christmas takes over and ruins everything. As part of that spirit of encroaching darkness and change, it’s time to see what the hell Heaven is up to in a twisted and dark tale of fallen angels and war.
Let’s take a look at Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival.
A sequel to the popular The Devil’s Carnival, the film gives us a look at Heaven as run by God (played by Paul Sorvino) both before and after the events of the previous film. The Devil is sending damned souls up to Heaven in an attempt to overcrowd it and destroy God’s rule of decide who is and is not redeemable. Unlike the first film, the movie focuses on one Aesop’s fable only, the story of The Ass and The Lap Dog, in which a donkey from the stables attempts to join the upper ranks of the animals in the home and is punished for its insubordination.
In this case, the donkey, or “filly” as the movie uses, is June, a young Applicant to join the ranks of Heaven. Her friend Cora becomes worries as June continues to rebel, catching the attention of The Agent. God, seeing trouble coming, tells The Agent to let June transgress on a high level so he can cast her down. It is upon her arrival that the Devil decides its time to get back at Heaven and he helps her become The Painted Doll from the first film. After a look at the broken, Orwellian state of Heaven, we return to the present, where God has sent the Agent down to deal with the issue. June/The Painted Doll leads him into the carnival and poisons him, while it’s revealed that The Twin has already entered Heaven under the guise of one of the Devil’s redeemed sinners.
The acting is fantastic in this film, and with such a diverse and prestigious cast, how could it not? From legends like Ted Neeley, Adam Pascal, Barry Botswick, Bill Moseley, to musicians like Jimmy Urine, Emilie Autumn and Tech N9ne, there’s tons of excellent talent. They even managed to get David Hasselhoff in there. Terrance Zdunich, who also wrote the screenplay, remains an excellent and threatening Devil while Autumn’s June is haunting and tragic. Lyndon Smith who plays Cora is also great as sort of the tragic third wheel who loves June (which is forbidden in Heaven) but also wants to be a part of the grand design and moves up the ladder
Paul Sorvino is a strong actor and a good singer, and yet I feel he doesn’t quite fit into the role of God. He comes off as a mean, cruel, and condescending jerk, which is very much the intention of the film, but he seems more lazy than authoritarian. That might have been a deliberate choice but it doesn’t work for me, especially since Heaven ends up looking so cruel and dystopian. There are definitely glimpses of it when he sings Heaven’s war song The Bells of Black Sunday but ultimately the pettiness is a little strange for an all powerful deity.
At first, the music didn’t seem to stick with me, which is not great for a musical. With The Devil’s Carnival and Repo! The Genetic Opera, the catchiness was instant. That’s not to say that the soundtrack isn’t well constructed, and it has some excellent musical talent behind it, but there’s nothing that is immediately catching. It took a good few listens to the soundtrack to really get into the swing of it, but even then it’s not something that I myself desperate to here over and over again.
In terms of aesthetics, the movie looks great with that same twist sensibility, only this time in pastels instead of grimy dark colors. Heaven is a 1930s-1940s soft and silken world, modest fashion and overall moral Americana motif. The only space in Heaven that doesn’t comply with this looks is the library, a place of knowledge as well as censorship. It gives the whole movie this safe but eerie feel, as though the whole thing is too delicate and sweet for the beast underneath.
All in all, Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival doesn’t quite live up to the dark drama of it’s predecessor, but it still provides an interesting narrative. With a distinct look and feel, a talented cast, and the beginnings of an epic finale to the saga, it is still very much worth a watch.
– Great acting.
– Fantastic design.
– Strong story.
– Portrayal of God comes off as weirdly lazy and petty.
– Soundtrack is not as catchy or well written as its predecessor.