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Carny (2009)



CarnyReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, A.C. Peterson, Simone-Elise Girard, Vlastra Vrana

Directed by Sheldon Wilson

I remember listening to an audio interview on another site a while back with a screenwriter who’d done work for Andrew Stevens’ production company talking about how Stevens would always tell the guy to save his good material for any spec scripts he was trying to sell to the major studios because he was only in the business of “making sausage”, as Stevens described it. Real sausage, the edible sausage, you can cook it up anyway you want: fry it, broil it, barbecue it, sauté it, chop it up and smother it in onions, serve it on a bun, wrap it in a pancake, pour ketchup or mustard on it, even get really crazy and put some whipped crème and chopped nuts on it to make a banana split out of it if you want. The sausage is the ingredient and you do with it what you will before eating it. The problem with the sausage mentality in regards to moviemaking – even b-moviemaking – is that cinematic sausage is what it is and it cannot be anything else. If the movie you’re being served is nothing more than tasteless sausage then that is all it can ever be. Nothing you do can give it more flavor or serve it up in a manner more satisfactory to your palette.

That brings me to the latest Sci-Fi Channel original creature feature Carny – cinematic sausage offering nothing to tantalize your tastebuds.

A fairly competently made for what it is film yet every aspect of it aspires for nothing more than the bare minimum. Everything about it is routine. Everything about it feels too familiar. There is nary a spark of inspiration to it. Creatively lazy at every turn. Every character a stereotype; every plot point direct from the recycler. Disinterest sets in rapidly as an undeniable sense of “Who cares?” oozes from its pours. Movies like this are a time waster, yes, but a time waster denotes a waste of time and there is something seriously sad about producers that care so little that making a waste of time like this so long as they turn a profit is a career choice they’re happy to shoot for.

The thing I’ve been able to appreciate about the Sci-Fi Channel’s originals even as I maintain a love/hate relationship has been the schlock factor. Every so often I’d get one that was so ridiculously silly or over-the-top bad it achieved a higher degree of watchability than many of the better made yet infinitely pedestrian productions such as this. Every so often you’d get something with some inspired lunacy behind it. As goofy as a Mansquito may be or as unbelievably stupid as a Nature Unleashed: Tornado, as must-be-seen-to-be-believed bad as a Skeleton Man, at least they show some signs of a pulse even when the only thing keeping their heart pumping is the schlock value. I’ve long since given up hoping for genuinely good movies from Sci-Fi – they come along less frequently than Haley’s Comet – so at the very least I cross my fingers hoping for something that delivers some campy fun without dipping too deeply into the well of campy self-actualization or the sea of banality.

Ah, yes, banality; a word I find myself writing with increasing frequency when discussing the recent crop of Sci-Fi Channel originals. Having been watching these films as long as I have it has become impossible not to notice that Sci-Fi and the companies that make movies for them just keep going down the same road over and over again, happily, it would appear. One of my favorite sayings is “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This is in many ways the Sci-Fi Channel filmmaking philosophy. They don’t call it insanity although they certainly keep doing the same things over and over again. Though that saying may not apply here since Sci-Fi doesn’t appear to expect or care about achieving different results.

CarnyThis again brings me back to Carny. A murderous monster gets loose in a small community. Characters constantly stalk the woods in search of the monster stalking them. Local rednecks form a posse to hunt down the creature. A character with sinister intentions wants the creature alive and is willing to kill for it. A wooden leading man sets about to save the day. A person, preferably female, with some insider knowledge assists him. This is every Sci-Fi Channel monster movie you’ve ever seen regurgitated with only the variables slightly modified. The only thing three-dimensional about Carny were the dimensions of the computer animated monster and somehow even the texture of it managed to look more rubbery than the actual rubber puppet monster head used a few times.

The monster-of-the-week this time around is the Jersey Devil. Like a dragon crossbred with a pig, short and stout in a size, capable of running on all fours or flying with its bat-like wings in search of the blood it hungers for. With some minor tweaking to the design they could have also said it was a Chupacabra and nobody would know the difference. Could just as easily bill it as a pygmy gargoyle too. Neither its look nor its actions do anything to elevate it from the status of being just another generic movie monster that fails to stand out from the pack.

A man from New Jersey somehow captured a real live Jersey Devil and is looking to sell it to this small-time carny operator. If I caught such a thing I think my first call would be to CNN or National Geographic, some media body that could guarantee me maximum publicity and the potential to make millions. This dolt is clearly too stupid to live, a fact the carny realizes, which is why he murders the dolt and steals his monster.

The carnival is currently set up in some podunk town that I believe was said to be somewhere in Nebraska. Yes, Nebraska by way of Canada. This is one of those made-for-television movies that looks every bit like a made-for-television movie shot in Canada. Given the premise and visual aesthetic, Carny has the makings of a particularly lousy “X-Files” episode.

The carnival setting, even one as paltry as the carnival set here, should have provided many avenues of intrigue. Instead all roads lead to the woods where characters will skulk about for nearly half the movie.

I’m not fully up to speed on Jersey Devil lore but it would seem they have an aversion to popcorn; at the very least, flicking popcorn at a Jersey Devil sends it into a violent rage. A heckler not impressed by this sideshow oddity does just that, infuriating the beast enough to allow it to break free from its bondage.

A fire & brimstone preacher rants and raves like someone that never got the memo about the coming of the 20th century, let alone the 21st. The man apparently views sideshow carnivals as an abomination against God. To listen to him rant about sideshow carnivals you’d think a gay pride parade had come to town. After his son gets killed, the stereotypical stark-raving religious wacko becomes convinced the creature really is the devil incarnate, eventually proselytizing a small group of Billy Bob rednecks into a carnival burning lynch mob. If I make this character sound more amusing than he is, I apologize. He’s as boring as every other character.

None are more boring than Lou Diamond Phillips as the everyman local sheriff. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips where he had less to do than this. Even when the script attempts to establish a potential romance between him and a carnival psychic woman they totally forget to include the romance part yet still expect us to care about their bond.

The chef being forced to serve up this sausage is Sheldon Wilson (Shallow Ground, Screamers: The Hunting). Much like Diamond Phillips, he has nothing to work with. I can’t imagine having the unenviable task of directing a rampaging monster movie where the budget barely allows for the monster to have any screen time, when it does appear it doesn’t do all that much, and the most creative scene in the entire movie is the means by which the monster is killed and even that the film’s paltry budget wasn’t enough to allow it to be fully visualize it.

Bland tasteless sausage.

1 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5


Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

User Rating 3.65 (20 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)


The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

User Rating 4.14 (22 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods

The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.


  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom


In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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