Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carny (2009)

A beast as savage as its prey

What makes this made for TV Canadian film shown on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel--I know, I know "Canadian"--a cut above the usual creature-running-amuck type of B movie is it takes itself somewhat seriously, it lifts part of the screen away when people actually die and there are a few different themes going on at once to give it some meaning. The film carries the usual hit and miss CGI, though it doesn't look entirely thrown together and there are some actual grisly prosthetic gore effects when the immaterial attacks the material. It rushes into a few of its scenarios--especially how it opens up--but the saving grace of "Carny" is it doesn't entirely feel cheap overall.

A carnival hits a small, crime free town called Reliance with a new oddity up its sleeve that's going to be more outrageous and far more dangerous than the usual human deformity. That's because it's not a human at all: a shady and eccentric showman named Cap gets ahold of the Jersey Devil with curious spectators lining up but to the by-the-book Sheriff's unease. The local pastor goes about his usual ramblings, but this time at least he can say "I told you so" when the winged beast escapes to the nearby woods and attacks and kills unsuspecting locals till a full blown creature hunt with every available gun is assembled. If there's ambition with this carnival then it sheds rivers of red and sees through green eyes since Cap and his even shadier assistant are playing along but are currently trying every which way they can to reacquire it for a buyer willing to pay a pretty penny.

Some of the performances are better than others. Matt Murray, as the pastor's son Taylor, plays the tough and rebellious but scared on the inside persona like a caricature. Vlasta Vrana, as the hypocritical pastor, seems to start out somewhat innocently but escalate to someone far more threatening when people actually listen to his incessant ramblings. As the Sheriff Lou Diamond Phillips manages to act naturally but isn't always given opportunity to play a charismatic leading man with so many others gaining side parts around him. Simone-Elise Girard, as Samara the vision seeker and potential love interest, represents someone as a character but is somewhat stiff in her delivery and tone. Alan C. Peterson, as Cap the showman, keeps up both appearances with the shady dealings behind the scenes and not letting himself being found out in the front.

If one can get over there being no build up to acquiring the Jersey Devil and that there was only minimal effort made with explaining how or why it actually exists then this was a somewhat diverting experience. There are some inconsistencies here and there but the pacing is somewhat steady and moves from one thing to next to cover up a few. The film deals with some indifference and how a situation can escalate out of control with the creature as well as the town's folk against their own kind. There's a sense that every other person wants to control the next, anywhere from the pastor's son not being treated as an individual to the assistant of Cap being pushed around despite having capability. It makes you wonder who is more the villain or darker in nature: the Jersey Devil or the thought to be normal citizens with facades. The deaths are actually treated like who was killed was a person. A share come as a surprise as to who gets it next as the filmmakers aren't afraid to kill off their leads, even when there was a scene with drama to establish who they were prior. Not to mention who saves the day gets shifted around with all of the different people who could have done it, which keeps predictability down and anticipation up.

"Carny" is more bleak than it is fun at points and more of the scary moments come from how the humans treat each other than how the beast mindlessly torments them. The Jersey Devil is still kept somewhat obscured at times, that way to conceal where it's going to come flying or creeping in from next. Likely to happen? No. But it goes to show that the deformed and odd looking carnies on the outside are the only ones that don't act monstrous on the inside when they aren't performing.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Sheldon Wilson (Shallow Ground, Kaw, Screamers: The Hunting)
Stars: Lou Diamond Phillips, Alan C. Peterson, Vlasta Vrana, Simone-Elise Girard, Matt Murray
Link: IMDB

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