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October 7, 2010

Movie Review: Carnies (2010)

by David Hayes

Carnies is an interesting film. I doubt that anyone can relate to this, but it is very, very reminiscent of Ed Wood's work once his film career had ended. Wood wound up writing a large amount of novels and a good deal of these dealt with horror as set in the world of the travelling carnival. Clowns, sideshows, barkers... all of them were wrapped up in Wood's dark tales (usually murdered and a poor transvesite was the patsy, but that is classic Ed Wood). Fifty years later, that unique blend of old-school carnival and slick, modern horror is revived in writer/director Brian Corder's Carnies. It is, most definitely, a lush and colorful film noir, but it escapes the hackneyed murder-mystery plot fairly quickly, while retaining the stylish atmosphere of Tod Browning's Freaks. Carnies, after establishing the mood, is a straight-up horror film... and that is a compliment where I come from.

Buy Carnies on DVD

Set in 1936 at a travelling sideshow, the characters of the film begin to die, one by one. Detective Ellison (Reggie Bannister of Phantasm and Bloody Bloody Bible Camp fame) is called in and the hunt is on. All manner of side-show freak is on the chopping block, including the strong man (Chris Staviski) and his pal the rat catcher (Doug Jones of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth fame). The performances, especially from Jones, are well-done for such a budget-challenged film and, unlike most micro-budget period pieces, enhance the atmosphere. Denise Gossett, playing the leader of the sideshow, Helen, also turns in a fine performance.

What Carnies has going for it in the way of atmosphere, mood and engaging visual direction, it tends to lack in story, though. The plot itself is fairly 'slasher standard,' but it works. The demons are gruesome, archetype specific and very well done by Joe Castro (who you may remember as the maestro behind the Terror Toons series).

All in all, Carnies is a fun ride. I'm very interested to see what Corder has up his sleeve, next. It will be very interesting to see what he can do with a budget and a tight screenplay. Stay tuned.

Carnies is available from R-Squared Films. To purchase Carnies, and help us at the Cheese, click that little button on the left and get it there.

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