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Devil’s Carnival, The (2012)

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The Devil's CarnivalStarring Terrance Zdunich, Sean Patrick Flanery, Briana Evigan, Jessica Lowndes, Marc Senter, Emilie Autumn, Dayton Callie, M. Shawn Crahan, Nivek Ogre, Bill Moseley, Alexa Vega, Ivan Moody

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman


Step right up, sinners, and see what awaits you inside the new musical project from two of the madmen behind Repo! The Genetic Opera, who are taking us all straight to hell – this time with The Devil’s Carnival.

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Terrance Zdunich, The Devil’s Carnival follows three wayward “sinners” who are new to Lucifer’s (Zdunich, who also stars) carnival: There’s grieving father John (Flanery), who commits suicide; naïve bad boy magnet Tamara (Lowndes), who ends up on the wrong side of her abusive boyfriend’s revolver; and professional thief Ms. Merrywood (Evigan), who gets caught in a deadly shoot-out with police when a robbery goes wrong.

Once they arrive in Hell, the trio’s sins are revealed to all as Lucifer and his cronies have some fun with the new arrivals at the Carnival and expose their faults through various “lessons” that also tie in to the vast collection of Aesop’s Fables that Lucifer himself seems to fancy reading aloud to a youngster named Daniel (Tillman Norsworthy).

Inside Lucifer’s Big Top we meet a vast array of colorful characters throughout the one-hour running time, including the mysterious Painted Doll (Autumn), the sage Ticket Keeper (Callie) tasked with keeping track of all 666 rules of Lucifer’s realm, the fiercely stoic Tamer (Crahan, or “Clown” from Slipknot as he’s known) who lets his whip do all the talking, the chameleon-like character known as The Twin (Ogre of Skinny Puppy fame), the wicked bad boy of the carnival called The Scorpion (Senter), the often overlooked Magician (Moseley) and the balls-out wacky Wick (Vega) and her Woe-Maidens.

And of course there’s Paul Sorvino as a quiet doll maker who gets quite a surprise at the end when Lucifer decides to shake up the balance between Heaven and Hell a bit.

That may seem like an awful lot of characters to squeeze into an hour-long project; yet, somehow Bousman masterfully manages to keep the story and pace swift and frenetic, allowing everyone a chance to shine in The Devil’s Carnival. As Lucifer, though, Zdunich really comes into his own; while he may have won fans over worldwide with his portrayal of Graverobber in Repo!, it’s here where as a performer Zdunich seems to be more confident, and his command over every scene is astonishing to behold. It’s a role he seems born to play (which is not meant to be an insult by any stretch- Zdunich just embraces this role and it shows), and hopefully it’s one he’ll get the opportunity to tackle again down the road if The Devil’s Carnival becomes the breakout success it’s destined for once the right audiences discover it.

The music of The Devil’s Carnival, which was crafted by Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, is truly the heart and soul of this project, and every number weaves together so beautifully that (sorry to steal the film’s catchphrase here) you can’t help but fall…in love with every single note. While there were a few songs that kind of lagged slightly in Repo!, The Devil’s Carnival ends as strongly as it begins, which is a difficult task in the world of cinematic musicals (hell, even Rocky Horror Picture Show has a few “lesser” songs). Fans of Repo! will undoubtedly love the music here, and the non-Repo! fans out there should definitely appreciate the leap forward that everyone has taken creatively since their last musical endeavor.

As a director (and ringmaster of sorts), it feels like Bousman has found his creative home with The Devil’s Carnival; his approach seems more focused and enthusiastic on this project than fans have ever really seen from his work before, and the maverick spirit of what Bousman et al have created here is subversive and infectious and makes for a truly magical experience at the theater.

The Devil’s Carnival is currently being shown as part of a Road Show experience throughout the US and Toronto over the next several weeks; it’s a project that’s made to be enjoyed with a large audience so definitely try to track it down if it happens to roll through your town in the coming weeks.

4 out of 5

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GIRLS NIGHT 2 Review – A Terrifying Halloween Treat

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Starring Marina De Sousa, Vincent Conty

Directed by David Teixeira


If you love Halloween as much as I do, you probably also love horror films that take place on Halloween. French Writer/Director David Teixeira uses Halloween as the backdrop for his eerie short horror film Girls Night, which we reviewed here. The film tells the story of three friends who decide to play Bloody Mary and end up butchered by a creepy masked killer. Filmmaker Teixeira skillfully uses atmosphere and impressive cinematography to heighten the scares.

Teixeira is back with Girls Night 2 which will be released in October just in time for Halloween. The only survivor of the massacre, Jess (Marina De Sousa), is suffering from nightmares and insomnia because she was blamed for the murder of her friends. It’s a year later and Halloween and she is staying with Pierre (Vincent Conty). To calm Jess’s nerves they decide to watch a short film their friend David (David Teixeira) made, but Jess can’t stay awake. In her dreams the masked killer is back and wielding a pair of scissors. The film ends in utter confusion and a bloody mess. Is it real or is it a dream and who is the killer? You’ll have to watch the short to find out.

The performances are strong and believable and actress Marina De Sousa is remarkable as Jess. Like the original, Girls Night 2 delivers an exciting amount of intensity and panic in only around thirteen minutes. I highly suggest experiencing both of these short films while wearing headphones to really amp up the terror. Girls Night 2 is currently a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Cinefest and winner for Best Foreign Film at the $2 Dollar Film Festival. The award winning short film Girls Night is available on YouTube and you can watch the Girls Night 2 teaser trailer below.

  • Girls Night 2
4.0

Summary

Girls Night 2 delivers an impressive amount of intense scares worthy of a feature length film in just under thirteen minutes.

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PANTHER RIDGE Review – When Your New Job Takes You To Interesting Locations

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Starring Chenara Imrith, Kerry Hempel, Seth Goodfellow

Written by Ryan Swantek

Directed by Ryan Swantek


Director Ryan Swantek’s graphic-take on a young woman unhappy with her looks in White Willow was in my useless opinion, one of the strongest short films to hit the horror genre in quite some time. It was brutal, unflinchingly ruthless to eyeball, and best of all for a first-time directorial effort, there was no apology for what was put before us – let’s venture over to Panther Ridge.

So what comes around in the second-time in the big guy’s chair? Well, when I’d heard that it was a sadistic look into the BDSM scene, I’ll admit I was a bit intrigued (no, I’m not into that stuff, ya kooks) – I’d just honestly hoped for a bit more than what was tossed to me. This particular short film is titled Panther Ridge, and it tells the story of a young lady who is getting a fresh start in a new career – that of a dominatrix, of sorts. As this presentation begins, she’s smack dab in the middle of a dungeon with a very unlucky prisoner and the woman who will be guiding her in her “training.” I’ll tell ya, first days on the job can be stressful, but with the correct forms of relief, you can make it through the day all the while exorcising some pent up demons as well.

Commence brutality upon this poor tied-up fool and the lass roped up across from him, for they know not what lies in store for them next, but rest assured they’ll be making a blood donation whether they want to or not. Unfortunately my self-imposed hype proved to be insurmountable as Swantek’s second time up to the plate resulted (for me, anyway) in a big swing and a miss. What worked in his maiden voyage with Willow was the notion that you were going to witness the repercussions of a tortured soul as she looked in the mirror, whereas this time we’re watching some poor sap get the snot beaten out of him, and I could honestly see the same thing in a number of other productions for a longer stretch of time (if you dig that sort of thing). I’ll await Mr. Swantek’s third production when it’s time, and hopefully it’ll pack more of a sustained punch than this quickie.

  • Panther Ridge
2.5

Summary

Swantek’s sophomore directorial endeavor unfortunately isn’t much more than shock and torture-porn crammed into an abbreviated timeframe – been down this road more than a few times.

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EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS Blu-ray Review – Savagery & Sexuality From The Master Of Sleaze

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Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Monica Zanchi, Donald O’Brien

Directed by Joe D’Amato (Arisitide Massaccesi)

Distributed by Severin Films


After taking famed sex icon Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) to Bangkok (1976), America (1976), and Around the World (1977) legendary sleaze director Joe D’Amato decided to mash up two of Italy’s most notorious genres by sending his beautiful muse down to the Amazon rainforest, cinematic home to countless hordes of cannibal tribes. The Italian cannibal craze of the late’70s was just beginning to take hold, offering D’Amato a ripe opportunity to satisfy both the bloodlust and, well, regular lust of exploitation devotees worldwide. For the most part the film plays out expectedly, with a reasonably large group of people meeting in the Amazon and trekking off on a quest. By the end, that group has dwindled down to only a few members, all of whom probably have a lot of regret about traipsing through the jungle. Aficionados will get a bit of a “been there, eaten that” vibe from the film, which hits every trademark of the genre sans animal cruelty, but Emanuelle herself spices up this cannibal comfort food with an alluring performance capped off by one helluva genius ending. The film also holds the dubious distinction of showing a penis being eaten less than 15 minutes after the opening credits. You set a high bar, Joe.

When an unlucky nurse has half of her tit eaten off by a newly-arrived mental patient, a girl found in the Amazon jungles, journalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) infiltrates the sanitarium to score a hot scoop. Armed with a camera concealed within a baby doll head, Emanuelle surreptitiously snaps a few shots before making the new girl talk via… digital means – and I’m not talking technology. Emanuelle takes her information to Professor Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti), a museum curator whom she hopes will fund her expedition. He agrees. Then, she goes and screws some random guy in broad daylight down by the river. Later, she comes back and has more sex, this time with Mark. The next day they leave for the Amazon.

Upon arrival, the two are met by Isabel (Monica Zanchi) and Sister Angela (Annamaria Clementi), both of whom have altruistic plans of their own in the rainforest. Their trek soon brings them across Donald (Donald O’Brien), a hunter who is on safari with his wife and a guide. Now that the film has brought together a large group of people, some of whom are more reprehensible than others, it’s time to pick them off and watch in delight as cannibals of the Amazon gut them, skewer them, and devour their flesh while the soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco play in the background.

So many of these Italian cannibal pictures feel interchangeable because the formula is incredibly simple – send a group of naïve outsiders into the Amazon and let an indigenous tribe kill and eat them, usually in the most horrific manner possible. What sets this film apart from so many others is in the title: Emanuelle. Gemser is not only easy on the eyes but she has this magnetic presence on screen, not because she is a great actress but her looks, abilities, and personality combine to create one of exploitation cinema’s most capable and sultry sirens. It is entirely due to her ingenuity here that anyone survives at all. She isn’t a rag doll, tossed around and used for sex and companionship; Emanuelle is a woman in charge of her own sexuality and she calls the shots. This film was made during a time when women were often used as set dressing or spent most of a film being subservient, so it’s a nice change of pace to have one in the lead who takes control and it feels natural, not forced.

Don’t go thinking this is some kind of strong female-led picture that celebrates womanhood or anything. D’Amato never likes to peer too high from his gutter view, and “Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals” is a sleaze sensation; a cornucopia of cannibalism and carnal acts that culminates in the titular heroine literally becoming a god… temporarily. D’Amato takes two of humanity’s greatest loves – eating and screwing – and builds a story around them. Besides all of the aforementioned fornication, nipples are eaten as an amuse-bouche, penis tartare is part of the starter course, a vagina makes unexpected friends with the business end of a machete, a woman is gutted like a deer, and one guy learns a thin rope can still be strong enough to tear the human body in half. Nobody gets out of this thing unscathed… except, maybe, for Emanuelle who seems unfazed by every atrocity the world throws her way.

Ugly films need beautiful music and the lush, soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco make for the ultimate dichotomy of relaxation and revulsion. Fidenco’s score is less the serene soundscape Riz Ortolani composed for Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and more of a funky, porno-lite trip down ‘70s Lane. Oftentimes the composers on these rough Italian pictures delivered scores that felt like they belong to something more refined and accessible, not a movie destined for banning in multiple countries and cut to ribbons in others. Fidenco provided the score for many entries in the Black Emanuelle series and while those films might be past their prime the music is completely timeless.

Severin has provided a new 2K scan from unknown elements, delivering a 1.85:1 1080p image that falls right in line with most of their catalog. The picture has been cleaned up enough to allow for high-def improvements in clarity and coloration to (mostly) shine through, while still retaining a gritty look to remind viewers this is still a grindhouse picture. Film grain is heavy and active, swarming the picture but never becoming noisy. Contrast is variable, as is sharpness, with some scenes looking closer to HD than others. Colors are accurate but a bit anemic, too, with only a few instances of truly popping against the ever-present jungle greens. Detail is swallowed up in darkness, so don’t expect to see much of it when night falls, which thankfully isn’t often. I’ll say one thing Italy sure does make for a fine Amazon stand-in.

Audio is available in both English and Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono, both of which offer a similar audible experience. The standout here is unsurprisingly hearing Fidenco’s score in lossless glory. The ADR work is typically poor and obvious, but everything is understandable and there are no noticeable issues with hissing or audio damage. Subtitles are available in English.

The World of Nico Fidenco – The legendary composer sits down for a new interview, covering his career and the Emanuelle series. In Italian with English subtitles.

A Nun Among the Cannibals – Actress Annamaria Clementi provides a new interview about her role in the film and what it was like working with D’Amato. In Italian with English subtitles.

Dr. O’Brien M.D. – This is an archival interview with Donald O’Brien, who played the wild and wily hunter, Donald, in the film.

From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – Actress Monica Zanchi gives a new interview that covers her career.

I Am Your Black Queen is an audio-only archival interview with Gemser.

A theatrical trailer (in SD) is also included.

Special Features:

  • BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM prepared for this release
  • English and Italian audio tracks, with optional English subtitles
  • The World of Nico Fidenco – an interview with the composer (27 min)
  • A Run Among the Cannibals – an interview with actress Annamaria Clementi (23 min)
  • Dr. O’Brien MD – an interview with actor Donald O’Brien (19 min)
  • From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – an interview with actress Monica Zanchi (19 min)
  • I Am Your Black Queen – an audio commentary by actress Laura Gemser (11 min)
  • Original trailer
  • Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
  • Special Features
3.0

Summary

There is no point to making complaints about plotting when watching a film with this title. D’Amato promises viewers nothing more than a sleazy time intended to induce equal parts creep and kink into a span of time. Severin’s release offers a cleaned-up picture and a solid selection of extras that catch up with a few of the principal cast and crew.

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