I liked Repo: The Genetic Opera, Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich’s previous musical horror collaboration, and I like stories about dark carnivals, so when I first saw a trailer for The Devil’s Carnival some time back, I was pretty excited. But like with a lot of movies, it flew under the radar and made its way onto home video and streaming without me noticing, so I was surprised when I stumbled across it while browsing Netflix.
At only 55 minutes long and with a structure based on Aesop’s Fables, it feels a lot like an episode of an old horror TV show, if old horror TV shows had the cast and aesthetics of a Rob Zombie movie. There’s actually quite a bit less singing and quite a bit more talking than in Repo, and the songs are more traditional and less modern. Some are really good, and others are forgettable. Ivan L. Moody of Five Finger Death Punch gets one of the better ones. Terrance Zdunich plays Lucifer this time out, and while not quite as sexy as his Graverobber in Repo, he’s still quite good (and looks like something from a Clive Barker movie). He gets a couple of the other best songs, including the closing number and a mid-credits “In All My Dreams I Drown” with Jessica Lowndes. (A song that was originally intended to go into the movie, and was released to the Internet as part of the promotional materials, but got cut from the actual film.)
Experimental and independently funded, The Devil’s Carnival is less a film and more an experience, an elaborate performance piece, a series of interconnected and highly theatrical music videos. I didn’t like it as much as Repo, but it’s so slight and such an obvious labor of “we’re putting on a show in the barn!” that it’s hard to dislike it much. Bousman and Zdunich have said they intended it as a series and have already started working on parts two and three, which explains the “to be continued” -ish ending of this installment. It’s available on Netflix streaming, and will only kill 55 minutes of your time, if you’re curious.