The Devil is in the Details
Yes, the devil is in the details when you’re trying to get an original film idea funded. The more outre, the less likely you’ll find willing investors who, not surprisingly, look for sure fire returns. That is how Darren Lynn Bousman explained the process to a goth bedecked audience at New York City’s Times Scare haunted house attraction. The director has been on both sides of the coin, overseeing three Saw sequels and the Mother’s Day remake. These kinds of projects find backers based on franchise popularity but in turn crowd out new concepts with “rehashed” retreads. Alternately, along with writer Terrance Zdunich, Bousman has created the indie as indie gets Repo, The Genetic Opera.
The NYC Devil’s Carnival Tour event found Bousman and company halfway through an interesting experiment. Part film experience, part live performance by local acts, part audience participation, Q&A and a meet and greet, it proposes a unique but risky DIY model that circumvents industry gatekeepers. It is quite a commendable effort and I believe inspiring to creative outsiders. Afterall, today’s harebrained schemes can turnout to be tomorrow’s business models. Tapping into the comicbook, sci-fi, horror and cosplay communities puts the creators directly in touch with an established fan base, kind of like a live version of Kickstarter. Their affiliation with goth goddess Emilie Autumn is what peaked the curiosities of both Ken Pierce and I in the first place.
The concept is somewhat akin to “midnight movie” culture where screenings of films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” had costumed audience members break the prosenium arch and become part of the event. It allows it’s producers to create a different experience at every tour stop. At the NYC event were treated to a contortionist, an audience member costume contest, a behind the scenes reel from the production of “Repo” (sing-a-long!), and a troupe of young ladies who offered an erotic tableau one might have expected to see in a Victorian bordello. Bousman, Zdunich, actress Briana Evigan and soundtrack producer Joseph Bishara were all on hand for a post screening Q&A session. A protracted meet and greet where they kindly signed posters and CD’s. They were genuinely thrilled to meet their fans and marveled at the creative costumery.
The film itself follows a trio of characters castoff by a Geppetto like God (played by Paul Sorvino.) These folks are having a hard time on Earth and an even worse stay in Hades, inevitably caught by one of the 666 rules of the realm. Their individual narratives are based on the fables of Aesop. Meager change in the human condition over millennia validates the longevity of those simple parables.
Like “Repo”, “The Devil’s Carnival” is a musical. Unlike its progenitor – which is based in futuristic sounds – producer/engineer Bishara noted that the Carnival soundtrack reaches back to “ancient” instruments for its sonic landscape. The tuba driven low-end gives the film the feel of a Kurt Weill operetta or the rickety rawk of Tom Wait’s albums “Rain Dogs” and “Bone Machine.” Amazingly it was all tracked in one day long recording session. It ain’t rock, but it ROCKS.
Based on its budgetary constraints the film is quite opulent visually. Make-up, lighting and camera work are all top notch and inventive. The fairy tale stagecraft will likely remind you of Laurel and Hardy’s timeless “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (1934) but with strikingly saturated color. Think Mario Bava or the look of Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s “Alucarda, La Hija de las Tinieblas” (1977.)
The cast includes Briana Evigan (Mother’s Day), Ivan Moody (singer of Five Finger Death Punch), Slip Knot’s Clown Shawn Crahan, Dayton Cally (Sons of Anarchy), Sean Flanery (Boondock Saints) Emilie Autumn and plague rats, Alexa Vega (Spy Kids franchise), Jessica Lowndes (Altitude) and screenwriter Zdunich as the dark lord himself.
The film, which runs under 1 hour is a cliff hanger, it’s follow-up script already completed. Bousman revealed teasers that part 2 will include more views of the “Heaven Carnys”, thereby more Paul Sorvino (Yay!), and a duet between Emilie Autumn and Clown.
I love the way the ensemble tune “Six Hundred Sixty Six Rules” parodies Rent’s “Seasons of Love” (aka “525,600 Minutes”), what a hoot.
If you have the opportunity to catch “The Devil’s Carnival” in the latter half of the tour be assured of a great time. I suggest you dress to the nines in your best fantasy fineries and participate, it’s rule #667.
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