The Devil’s Carnival – Punk Rock Film-Making Scores a Big Win!

by angryhippie

I have to say that this review I am about to write and share is something a bit different for the blog and from the Angry Hippie. But as I have a total love for all independent art projects, and have been talking of a new model needing to replace the defunct, corporate studio-sucking, mind-numbing, creatively challenged model that Hollywood is currently working off of; it totally fits. And friends, let me tell you, the imaginative genius’ behind this punk rock film-making project are blazing that trail towards a rewarding return to true entertainment experiences for the future.

The Skinny

In this world of formulaic premise films, where studios’ lack of imaginative ingenuity restricts those with true vision and passion from being able to produce quality content that speaks to their audience, because the studio heads believe ‘there is no audience’ for projects of this nature; The Devil’s Carnival would never have seen the light of day. And had it not been for the determined, and oft impulsive tendencies, of the impassioned director, Darren Lynn Bousman (of Repo and 11/11/11), and Terrance Zdunich (of Repo and The Molting), the incredible writer and god among scribes, both taking charge and leading the way, it never would have. Where would it all end up leading? To a glorious movie-going experience unlike any other.

The two took it upon themselves to finance, distribute and handle every aspect of the endeavor themselves. To have complete control of their vision, and deliver unto the audience they ‘knew’ was waiting for them, an introduction into a dark world wrought from the pages of Aesop’s fables. I say ‘knew’ was waiting, because as Darren has covered on his blog, the fear may have creeped in that no one would show up. But show we did, and we did so in spectacular fashion!

Persephone in costume and ready for the Carnival!

Me in costume and ready for the Carnival!

Throngs of fans have filled the venues across the country as the crew have taken the film on the road and toured with it, showing it night by night one city at a time. And so many have come in costumes, baring gifts to show their love and support for the project and its creators. Persephone and myself had our costumes on and a gift bag prepared to show our support: bottle of my favorite tequila, Hussongs, with oranges to slice and chase, a thrift store tee I found that was perfect for the occasion, and a poem I wrote for Terrance and one I wrote for Emilie Autumn (star of the film and head Mistress of the Asylum). Hopefully the oranges would give the boys a bit of the vitamins their road-diets had been lacking. Scurvy (as Terrance should know with all of his pirate research), like the Wu-Tang Clan, is nothing to fuck with.

Tee I scored at the thrift store to gift to Terrance

The Movie

The Devil’s Carnival (Episode One) is a dark, yet playful tale of three unlucky souls whose various lives end as a result of the circumstances which deliver them to the gates of hell. Hell in this musically charged, twisted, camp tome is a carnival that will force each of the ticket-holders to face their sins in true carnie style. With an exceedingly talented cast to comprise this gallery of misfits, and a pitch perfect score to back them, this raw, melodic journey through hell is more than film-making at its finest…it is a sensational roller-coaster ride of emotion and horror from start to finish that you never want to end!

**Spoiler Alert** : The rest of this review contains some details about the film that are spoilery in nature, and should only be read by those who have seen the film, or for some reason wish to have certain elements revealed that will take a little of the discovery out of the journey for you when you do see it…AND YOU WILL SEE IT (cue hypnotic visuals to drive that point home)…


Darren told the audience before the film opened that we would know in the first thirty seconds of the movie if we were going to love it or hate it, and for me, that was true. As it opens in God’s workshop (God played by the incomparable Paul Sorvino), and he is listening to a record of himself singing, showing in such a whimsical way the ego of God, I was in love! Admittedly the soundtrack, which was released beforehand online, already had me crushing hard so I was heading in that direction anyway, but still. Hooked.

God is working on one of his creations, symbolically one of the three sinners the film would shortly be introducing in a tense montage of mayhem, pain and death, when he makes a slight mistake in his work. When confronted with this minor flaw, one that could easily be corrected, God discards the doll without a second thought. This wrathful and unforgiving nature would be echoed in the condemning and angered tones God uses when confronted a second time by one of his flawed creations in the film’s conclusion.

There were so many amazing performances that really captured the bizarre and deadly themes of the rich tapestry Terrance had woven into the characters and story, and that Darren visualized with this film. Emilie Autumn, who again, I am a huge fan of, delivered such a stunning performance as the Painted Doll. Her role, which is a completely silent one save for a single powerful musical number, was performed with such artistry and skill that she instantly endears and draws the audience to her. Marc Senter’s (The Lost) disarmingly charming Scorpion is another standout performance among stand out performances. Both Emilie and Marc showed up at the Denver road show stop to premiere the film to all of us Colorado carnies.

Terrance’s portrayal of Lucifer was as breathtaking and brilliant as expected, after he completely wowed the world with his voice and acting skills as the Graverobber in Repo! the Genetic Opera. Even beneath the stylistically ghoulish make-up, his unmistakable, haunting voice carries you gently down under his spell. Ivan Moody (of Five Finger Deathpunch) comes in as the Hobo Clown with one of the most understated and engaging performances in the movie. Such a fun number he so flawlessly delivers, through one of the film’s darkest moments: as one of the sinners suffers a tortuous fate at the hands of the menacing Tamer (played by Slipknot’s Shawn ‘the Clown’ Crahan) who is tasked with enforcing hell’s 666 rules.

Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints) also shines as John, a grieving father who succumbs to the pain of losing his son and whose suicide earns him his ticket to play. Briana Evigan (Mother’s Day) does a great job as well, playing the greedy thief Ms. Merrywood, a truly unrepentant sinner whose duet with the Twin (Ogre of Skinny Puppy) was the only disappointing point of the movie. And please do not misunderstand, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Briana’s part, but as a fan of Ogre, I was hoping for a little more of a duet in the film like was featured on the soundtrack. A forgivable slight that was certainly resultant from the scheduling of the shooting and the actor’s other many projects that was talked about before and after the film in regards to a few fan favs.

Jessica Lowndes’ (90210) Tamara, one of the most contested (by the audience) souls destined for the Carnival because of her life full of bad choices, in which she was constantly opting for the role of the victim despite the many chances to not be that she was given, was heartbreakingly well played. Many members have asked Terrance why the apparent victim blaming of Tamara, by sentencing her to hell, and I have to give him credit. Whereas I would use the opportunity to pass the blame over to God who is the one that obviously determines who ends up where in the afterlife, Terrance goes on to explain that she is only a victim because she has chosen to be. She has constantly been shown the truth, but chooses to ignore it and trust in the wrong people, which she is faced with again in hell under the ‘guard’ and guile of the Scorpion.

A quick shot of just some of the merch we picked up. Is that TWO copies of the soundtrack? Hmm. That’ll probably come up later…

Dayton Callie (Sons of Anarchy) turns in a very subtle and poignant performance as the Ticket-Keeper, just as Bill Moseley (Repo, House of 1000 Corpses…and fucking everything ever!) turns in a very animated and over-the-top campy performance as the Magician, both of which are highlights whenever they are on the screen in The Devil’s Carnival! Alexa Vega (Repo) as Wick with her Woe Maidens, Maggie Lally (Captain Maggots), The Blessed Contessa Montebello (both of whom are part of Emilie Autumn’s Bloody Crumpets) and Hannah Minx are all mischievously magnificent as they wreak havoc on two of the film’s ticket-holders.

With such fantastic writing and directing, The Devil’s Carnival scores across the board, but the triumphant, anthemic Grace for Sale number and climatic sequence triumphantly closes this volume of the story, setting the stage ever so intriguingly for Episode Two (which it has been said will also include a European tour). Darren also said in the post show open Q&A that they will begin filming Episode Two in three months when the DVD’s of Episode One will also become available. Overall, this was a totally unique experience that certainly embodies the passion and potential that can drive the future of the entertainment industry into much more original and rewarding waters.

Note for the Podcast Listeners

As I pointed out below the photo of some of the merch, we wanted to not only further support the project and effort by Terrance and Darren, but help spread the word so we bought an extra copy of the limited edition CD release of the soundtrack (which is signed by both Terrance and Darren) that I could giveaway on the next episode of The Angry Hippies’ Podcast. So be on the lookout for your chance to win that copy of The Devil’s Carnival soundtrack when the next episode hits!