Monday, April 23, 2012

Film review: The Devil's Carnival

If you were lucky enough to be in the Richmond, Va area last night, then hopefully you were smart enough to attend what is quite possibly one of the quirkiest things to hit the city: The Devil's Carnival. Brought to you by the same people who created Repo! The Genetic Opera, this movie is best described as a very experimental dark musical that will rock your socks off. It's the greatest show on earth, but with devils and carnies. (Not that there's much difference between the two, mind you.)

Since I can't go too much into the plot due to the creators asking that spoilers are kept to a minimum, I'll try to keep anything spoilerish to myself for the most part.

First off, let me just say that this is one movie that's worth the expensive ticket. If you're in a city on the road tour and wondering if you should plunk down the $20+ for the movie, do it. It's a hell of a lot of fun, mostly due to the sheer amount of fan energy. I have to give a shoutout to Brittany "Shiro" Tyburski, as she was one of the people who helped whip the crowd into a frenzy and record the entire proceedings. She's the epitome of the uber fan, the one that you just look at and go "damn, you're hardcore!" Shiro had an energy that was hard for even Zdunich or Bousman to match, and they had the insanely hot and talented Emilie Autumn on stage with them.

The night started off with several burlesque acts, with some (eventually) scantily clad ladies doing a little strip tease for the audience. (Note: this is not the same as having a skanky $4 stripper give you a lap dance- these are ladies who have worked hard to make this into an art form and do Gypsy Rose Lee proud.) These lovely ladies were pretty well received by the audience, who gave each dancer a rousing cheer. The next big feature were some behind the scenes footage of Repo! The Genetic Opera, which even the Repo! virgin next to me enjoyed. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in front of some rather loud fans that shouted/sang along with every single lyric, which was a blast. It adds to the whole experience, and let's be honest: who really went to this expecting for the audience to stay politely quiet at all times?

There was also a costume contest and the winners of the "Sing for the Devil" contest were announced. I was able to recognize many of the faces in the video (one of which was actually in the audience last night), including one Anthony Stewart Head. Sorry Jester, as cool as it was to see you sing, ASH was really the highlight of that video. Somewhere in all of this (I forget the order) we have Emilie Autumn and Terrance Zdunich reading us Aesop's Fables. I still hold that the two of them need to sing together. It's probably a good thing that this didn't happen last night, as I think that the sound of a theater full of panties/underwear hitting the floor would have been deafening. (Those who have heard either of these two sing can attest to how amazing their voices are.)

Finally we come to the movie. It's freaking awesome and hopefully it'll come to video relatively soon. As expected for a movie that's only about an hour long, everything moves pretty quickly plot-wise. We have our three sinners, all of whom were brought to Hell through their own devices- a scene that was, in my opinion, one of the coolest in the flick. I'll have Woe-Maidens shrieking "CONFETTI!" in my mind for a while now. Emilie Autumn's The Painted Doll was one of my favorite characters from the film, in all her mismatched eyes and shattered face glory. The audience was treated to a Q&A with the lovely Autumn afterwards, who described the insertion of the lens as incredibly painful. (The things we do for art!)

One of my personal favorite scenes was the game between Ms. Merrywood and The Twin. The song is one that I've listened to over and over again on my iPod, and it got a lot more play after I headed home that night. Ivan Moody's A Penny for a Tale was also a great song/scene, but then I could probably go on and on about the songs until I've listed the merits of each one. I'll keep that part short and say that the songs are a lot of fun when you view them in the context of the film.

Now for an overview of the film as a whole. Everything goes so incredibly fast, so while the film was awesome (and I want to stress that), you don't get as much of a feel for the story as you might've with Repo!, which is understandable. This movie is more about the music and setting the tone for future episodes in the series. You're given enough to satisfy, but you're left craving more story and face time for each of the characters.

Now for the Q&A: we had the typical questions asked up front, such as "will there be a Repo! 2" (no, since Lionsgate holds the rights and won't let up Bousman and Zdunich even fix the subtitles on the DVDs, let alone do a comic or sequel/prequel, which is why B&Z decided to just start anew with TDC). Fans asked questions ranging from "why are you self-financing this- isn't that a risky move?" to "Can I have a hug, Terrance?" Bousman's answer was that at some point he realized that while he could've coasted by on big name Hollywood movies like the Saw franchise, it ultimately wasn't what he wanted to do, which I respect. Financing your own film is risky, but in the end Bousman justified it by saying that even if everything bombed, at least he got to make the movies that he really wanted to make. This is something that I think all of us can appreciate, as that's not something that many creative professionals of any output would be willing to do. (How many of us know authors, filmmakers, or actors that have decided to continue churning out clones of their work in order to keep the cash flow going, sacrificing their own creativity in the process?)

In the end I can't help but whole heartedly recommend this to fans of Repo! or any cult movie. There's going to be people who walk away from the experience a little underwhelmed, but ultimately this is a blast and something worth recommending for just about any fan.

Oh, and Terrance got his hug.

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