What I'm Watching: Devil's Carnival
Awhile ago, I saw Repo! The Genetic Opera, and if you haven't seen my thoughts on it, they were...not favourable. I didn't HATE it, and there were a few good moments. I liked the style, but the music never really landed for me or spoke to me.
Still, I could see why some people would get into it, and if the singing was a little more...I dunno, it's hard to explain just what about it didn't work for me. It felt too forced sometimes, like the singing wasn't natural enough. It's a style thing, I guess.
I honestly want to revisit it and see if it's grown on me. But enough of a movie that came out years ago, this is supposed to be about Terrance Zdunich's LATEST project, the Devil's Carnival!
Obviously I saw some talent in this guy, since I came back for his second project. His songs in Repo! were easily some of my faves, and the guy's got some serious vision going on. The trailer was decent, and the concept intrigued me, so sure! I'll give him another shot!
The plot revolves around a trio of people with darkness in their past meeting untimely ends and finding themselves in a Hell that is represented by a devilish carnival with a slew of rules, and they must navigate their way through, avoiding temptations tailored for their sins, with the chance of some day finding their way to Heaven, should they be found worthy.
Surprise! that's a long shot. At best.
The stories and songs are based around Aesop's Fables, and that is certainly a rich pit to mine. Many people have done it before, but never quite this way. And twisting the stories, and modernising them, and putting them through the lens of Lucifer's trials for the damned is actually very clever.
Remember back during my review of Dark Dealer, when I said I wish that it was an anthology series of people struggling to outwit the devil at games of chance and whatnot? Yeah, surprise is on me, this IS that series. Zdunich has every intention of making multiple Devil's Carnival movies with several stories in each, and it was like my request was instantly answered.
And yeah, while there's a lot here I genuinely DO like, it has a lot of the same flaws as Repo! The Genetic Opera. There is just something about the musical style for some of the songs that just reads as 'off' to me, and I'm not enough of a musical person to articulate it. Still, there's more songs in here I *do* like, and once again Terrance's songs shine with his distinctive, rich voice. I'd seriously come back AGAIN just to hear him sing.
On a whole, Devil's Carnival works for me a LOT better than Repo! does, with stronger songs, content that is more up my alley with the morality plays and demonic overtones. As I watched the movie, and listened to the commentaries, and watched it again, it definitely grew on me, and while a few things do still bug me, I really did almost instantly come around and quite enjoyed this.
It's tough to judge the cast, since acting and singing are two different things, with some similarities, but coming across in different ways on screen. With most of the story being conveyed through song, and the heightened acting that comes with it, there's a lot of scenery chewing, but it's almost all in the absolute best ways. Briana Evigan especially, who plays a dual role of a thief and her mirror self, tempting her to take more than she should, eats up the screen and the joy and fun she has as Twin is so SO fun to watch, as her own fun just oozes off the screen.
The weakest story for me was the adaptation of "The Scorpion and the Frog," and a large part of that is my personal dislike of the overused story. It's a good lesson about people not being able to change, but argh it's everywhere. But that's my own issues. They twist the story around to try and make it be about the innocent young girl whose nature is unchangeable and gets her in trouble, instead of the ever-stinging Scorpion (A 1950s style Greaser bad boy, in a perfect bit of style) that can't resist his nature. They never quite sell the idea, and it didn't really connect until it was outright explained that THAT is what they were going for.
Sean Patrick Flannery finishes up things with a story about a father who couldn't handle his young son's death and took his own life, winding up in the carnival. Flannery gives a haunting performance as he struggles to find his way through the labyrinth of his own demons, making great use of the carnival setting. He eventually is released by Lucifer and sent up to Heaven, as a plot point that will grow into the next Devil's Carnival movie.
I really can't say enough about Terrance Zdunich here, either. The man has vision, he is clearly creative, and has such a great voice and presence. He is the glue that holds this together, both creatively, and as Lucifer, the common thread that ties all the stories together, sharing them from his book of fables. It's such a great hook and wrapper to the story, and scratches an itch I've had for awhile for just this sort of anthology.
Overall, Devil's Carnival was an enjoyable, creative musical journey that I found more enjoyable than Repo!, and if you're a fan of that, then you'll probably love this too. While it wasn't perfect, and still had some rough spots, I was sold enough, and enjoyed enough, that I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of stories in this universe.