Netflix Review: The Devil's Carnival.

The other day, I saw a short film new to Instant Streaming called The Devil's Carnival. It was only 55 minutes long, and it sounded intriguing enough. And then I noticed it was directed by one Darren Lynn Bousman (the man responsible for Saw 2-4 and Repo! The Genetic Opera). And then I quickly discovered that is was written by Terrance Zdunich, the man responsible for writing the original stage version of Repo! The Genetic Opera (and who also co-starred in the film as its best character, The Graverobber). Then I discovered that it was also a musical and it was basically a re-teaming not only with the writer and director, but with basically the entire cast or Repo! (sans Anthony Head, Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton). I had to check it out immediately.

The film follows three people who have just died: a kleptomaniac, Ms. Merrywood (Briana Evigan); a too-trusting teenager, Tamara (Jessica Lowndes); and a grieving father, John (Sean Patrick Flanery). They end up in a twisted Hell-carnival where different people/creatures play out a story that ties in with their respective sins in a way that begins their cycle of eternal damnation via metaphor. Each of these stories is based on Aesop's Fables, as read by Lucifer (Terrance Zdunich). Merrywood gets The Dog and Its Reflection; Tamara gets The Scorpion and the Frog; and John gets The Devil and His Due. The film also has appearances by Repo! veterans Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Nivek Ogre, and Bill Moseley.

We all know how much I unashamedly love Repo! The Genetic Opera. But even the first time I watched that, I wasn't sure what to make of it. However, I'm not sure if that's the case here. I love the idea of this short, and despite what I might currently feel, I'll still watch any follow-ups (and Bousman/Zdunich plan on turning this into a series of shorts). So you've probably surmised I didn't care much for it. Well... yes and no.

Although it could have easily been longer (the story and character development possibilities were definitely there), I still like what they did with it. All the characters, from the sinners to the carnies, were fascinating. I'd love to see some of the carnies more, in particular. Ogre's character, The Twin, was particularly fascinating, as was Alexa Vega's Wick (And I didn't even recognize her. I had to look up afterwards which character she played, and I still can't believe that was her).

The main problem, to me, was the music. Some of Repo's songs had to grow on me, sure, but I'm not sure that's the case here. There are 12 songs in these 55 minutes, and only about half of them are any good. Most of them are short and, sadly, the longest one is probably my least favorite (it comes in at the conclusion of the Scorpion and the Frog story). And one of the best songs was cut from the film, though you see it in its entirety during the credits. But like I said, the songs that were good were good. Not great or "I must download this immediately," but "I might try listening again on YouTube" good. Outside of the aforementioned least favorite, there really weren't any I straight-up disliked. They just weren't catchy or memorable. They were just... there. But when you have a 55-minute short with 12 songs, this isn't a very good ratio.

That being said, if the story sounds interesting to you, I say check it out. It's only 55 minutes long. The short has apparently gotten some high praise--both the film itself and the soundtrack--all around. So maybe it's just me. And the aesthetics alone make it worth a watch. And it leaves the story off on a cliffhanger that left me interested in the possibly follow-up. I wish the songs were better on the whole, and the story definitely could have been expanded on had they had the budget (which they didn't), but I don't regret watching it. So I guess that's a good thing. (And who knows? Maybe, like Repo, a rewatch can change my mind.)

Stop Saying OK! OK.

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