This past thursday The Devil’s Carnival had its world premiere at the Laemmle Royal Theater in Santa Monica. Before the show a line of gothic carnie cosplayers snaked around the block from the building’s entrance – no doubt fans of Darren Lynn Bousman and his previous cult hit, Repo: The Genetic Opera.
The Devil’s Carnival wasn’t only premiering at the event, it was embarking on a 40 plus date road show that will see it – and members of its cast and crew – traveling the countryside and taking their circus to as many theaters as possible. Whatever you may think of Repo or this film, at least they provide experiences that are impossible to download.
Terrance Zdunich, who co-wrote Repo, also wrote the music for Carnival with Saar Hendelman. Zdunich stars alongside Bill Moseley, Briana Evigan, Emilie Autumn, J. Larose, Alexa Vega, Ogre, Paul Sorvino, Marc Senter, Sean Patrick Flanery and Slipknot’s The Clown.
In the film, “sinners are invited to a theme park where they endure the repetition of their transgressions. What chances do a conniving kleptomaniac, a gullible teenager, and an obsessed father stand when facing their own moral failings? Lucifer and his colorful cast of singing carnies invite you to grab a ticket to The Devil’s Carnival to find out!”
Head inside for a rundown of the event and some words from Bousman, Zdunich and the cast.
It should be noted that The Devil’s Carnival is an indie film in pretty much every sense of the world. From the nature of its financing, the way it came together creatively and the harsh conditions under which it was filmed, there was very little in the way of “luxury” to be had during the process of bringing it to the screen.
Speaking to Bousman, “We greenlit this on January 1st. It was supposed to be a 15 minute short with three songs at that point. By January 10th we expanded it to 10-15 songs and the cast had expanded from 5 people to 20 people. And – by the way – we didn’t get any more money. The amount of money was always the same, we just made it bigger anyway. I think what we were able to pull off for little to nothing is pretty remarkable.”
When it came to the topic of the roadshow he was also excited, it will bring this film to far more film patrons that the theatrical releases of 11-11-11 and Mother’s Day or pretty much anything he’s done since Repo four years ago. “I have this movie on more screens than my last three movies combined. And that, to me, is just disgusting. But it’s cool at the same time. It showed me that I don’t need someone to tell me what I can or can’t do anymore. This is the least marketable movie ever, but we were able to do it because we believed in it.”
When I spoke to Zdunich, who co-wrote the music and also plays Lucifer, he filled me in on the creative process behind the tunes. “The film runs about 60 minutes, and 32 of those minutes are music. So, for me, it really started with finding these archetypes and then finding the music to fit them. And I went from there.”
Nor was the production without some good old desert vandalism. Per producer Sean E. Demott, “These local kids broke into the dressing rooms when no one was watching and ran away with tons of hard drives. We literally had half of our crew chasing them down the road at two in the morning. We finally caught them and they had stashed the sh*t in a house. It was like an episode of “Cops” that landed on our set. ”
The elements themselves were also grueling. Bill Mosely, who plays The Magician in the film, joked that he’s still concerned about his health. “It was very cold and dusty. I may end up with the brown lung. Circus lung. But I enjoyed it. It’s always a pleasure to get back with the ‘Repo” bunch.”
While the film The Devil’s Carnival only runs 55 minutes, there’s much more to the experience than the film itself. The crew behind the roadshow has done everything they can to provide the audience with a carnival atmosphere short of assembling a ferris wheel in the parking lot.
Burlesque dancers take a cue from Lady Gaga and her fire spewing brazier as they dance to Marilyn Manson. Contortionists writhe across the stage. If you’re in costume – you’re called up to the front to take part in the cosplay contest. Repo nuts are also in for a treat – as a nearly 20 minutes behind the scenes look at that film’s production also unspools before Carnival. It gives you a fairly good luck at the atmosphere that’s created when everyone’s pulling together trying to make one of these gonzo musicals and it’s way more entertaining than your average EPK.
Warning to would-be pirates – perhaps my favorite part of the night is where they make the audience stand up and pledge not to pirate or upload the film. The audience is encouraged to police each other for douchebag activity, and if you’re caught you just may get punched in the nuts. Their words, not mine.
You can check out the rest of the dates on the roadshow and buy your tickets here.