The sinners are banished to The Devil’s Carnival. Lucifer himself (Zdunich) shares their tales as the trio tries to figure out exactly where they are and what is going on. This demented carnival is a slightly more extreme version of ones we’re accustomed to seeing. There are attractions, games, and assorted freaks and oddballs. But the stakes are high as the devil determines whether or not you are sent to heaven or remain in the carnival.
The stories of John, Tamara, and Ms. Merrywood are told in songs (which recount their sins) as they wander around the carnival. John has allowed grief to control his life and searches for his son. Tamara is naïve and too trusting, following around a good-looking guy who is nothing but trouble. Ms. Merrywood is consumed by greed and desperately wants to find a huge diamond.
John’s story (and feature song, “Grief”) is the weakest link. While the tales of Tamara and Ms. Merrywood are humorous and somewhat goofy, John’s is serious and gloomy, as is the song. It doesn’t mesh with the other stories or the movie’s tone. The Devil’s Carnival works best when it’s trying to be fun and twisted. Melancholy feels out of place.
Visually, it is spectacular. The costumes, makeup, and set design are superb. The devil in particular looks fantastic. It really is a feast for the eyes. Overall the songs are clever and catchy, with nearly everyone in the cast getting at least one chance to sing.
Clocking in at only 55 minutes, The Devil’s Carnival moves quickly but doesn’t feel rushed or incomplete. It doesn’t add to much and isn’t for everyone, but fans of Bousman and/or his previous musical will find plenty to admire.