"The Devil's Carnival" Movie Review — 4.5 out of 5 stars
Once you enter The Devil's Carnival, you may never want to leave.
The new musical from director Darren Lynn Bousman and writer Terrance Zdunich is captivating like your favorite record is. "You can't help but fall" isn't simply a recurring phrase; it should be one of the film's 666 rules. Make no mistake about it, you'll fall into this Carnival, and you'll have a bloody blast.
The film commences with three wayward souls—Mrs. Merrywood [Briana Evigan], Tamara [Jessica Lowndes], and John [Sean Patrick Flanery]—landing themselves inside of Hell for various reasons.
According to Bousman, Hell is nothing more than a carnival ruled by whacky wayfarers and the big man with the horns himself, played brilliantly by none other than Zdunich himself. Each of the three humans ends up facing his or her own avarice, folly, or hamartia via a game in the tent of shadows and, of course, an infectious, irresistible, and incisive song.
As is the case with all great films, the characters dictate the action, and boy is this a bunch of "characters".
There's "The Tamer" played menacingly by Slipknot mastermind and percussionist M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan. Donning a hat, a whip, and a burning stare, Crahan's "Tamer" could put fear into the heart of a dragon. He imbues "The Tamer" with a tough, tangible darkness that percolates within his intense facial expressions and commanding movements. He doesn't have to say anything; his performance and body language say it all. That's the beauty and brutality at the heart of the performance, and it signals the birth of a new screen presence for the ages. Plus, watching him whip Evigan is delectably sinister…
Five Finger Death Punch singer Ivan Moody channels a similar wisdom within "The Hobo Clown". Moody stretches his vocal range to baritone heights that rattle Heaven's gates on his resounding number, "A Penny for a Tale". He charismatically delivers each nuance of the song flawlessly as he terrorizes the carnival with a spry, playful malice.
At the same time, there's a vulnerability that Moody conveys via his facial expressions and mannerisms that's completely hypnotic. Also in his big screen debut, Moody shows a diversity that's integral to all unforgettable actors. He'll be starring in something soon undoubtedly.
Evigan adds a sexy insatiability to Mrs. Merrywood. She's funny, and she's also vile in her own right, making for another memorable turn. The girl's talent is simply undeniable. Equally unforgettable is Lowndes's Tamara, especially during the standout rendition of "In All My Dreams I Drown" with Zdunich.
Watching Emilie Autumn take a piece off Flannery is jarringly enjoyable. It's almost as potent as when her powerful pipes takeover during "Prick! Goes the Scorpion's Tale". Autumn's "Painted Doll" feels like an extension of her, and it's organically searing. This list could really go on and on, but let's not forget Dayton Callie's mind-blowing turn as the Ticket-Keeper and Bill Moseley as "The Magician" to name a few more.
Still Bousman is the real ringmaster. He's architected an experience that's unlike anything out there. He razes all boundaries and conventions of modern cinema and erects something subversively divine in their place. His aesthetic proves haunting, yet strangely nostalgic. It'll make you long for the carnival you went to as a kid, while giving you nightmares. Plus, he tells a new classic fairy tale along the way.
Catch The Devil's Carnival when it rolls through your town. You can't help but fall.