Carny (2009)

Carny (2009)

The carnival is anything but fun.

A carnival operator buys a real live Jersey Devil and labels it as his newest and proudest attraction. However on opening night, the monster escapes from its cage and flees into the woods where it develops a taste for human flesh. The local sheriff and the carnival’s psychic attempt to track down the monster before it kills again and before the angry townspeople and pastor burn down the carnival for bringing the Devil into their midst.

 

Another feeble creature feature flick from the Sci-Fi Channel and their endless bible of monsters to pillage, this time it’s the Jersey Devil that gets the cheap jack CGI treatment. So predictable, so tiresome and so devoid of ideas, Carny is hard to review in all honesty. There’s a small audience who watch these films regardless of their quality (*cough* me) in the feeble hope that they will improve over time and that there may actually be a decent one. Blood Monkey, Shark Swarm, Grizzly Rage, Maneater, Bats: Human Harvest, Sand Serpents, Eye of the Beast, Croc, Yeti, Swamp Devil….the list is nearly endless. There must just be one script floating around and the writers simply change the monster, the setting and a few character names and bang out another film. Every once in a while, a half-decent gem will be unearthed. But is it only half-decent because the rest of them suck so badly? Unfortunately, Carny is not that gem. Never in a million years will it be that gem.

Everything about Carny is just so pedestrian and predictable. There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing creative. It’s just the same old, same old from the Sci-Fi Channel. Monster is on loose in small town. There’s an enforcement figure in the lead role (police, wardens, etc.). There’s his/her token love interest who is usually either a scientist or local resident. There’s a human villain who wants the monster alive for personal/business/religious reasons. There’s a bunch of dim-witted locals (rednecks, hunters, fishermen, etc) who try and kill the monster down unsuccessfully. Don’t forget some obligatory teenagers to throw a spanner in the works and need rescuing. Of course, most of the film is spent in the woods looking for the monster with various characters going off on their own and doing silly things. I never get why people only go out in small groups to hunt monsters, given that they’ve already killed a few people and proven how deadly they are. Safety in numbers, not pairs should be the name of the game.

Hunting monsters in the woods is so dull too especially when pretty much every land-based creature feature flick does it now. Most of the kills are predictable enough and you can see the set-up a mile away. You hardly see the Jersey Devil which is probably a good thing as it looks poorly rendered in the few ‘action’ scenes it has to carry off. The CGI is lousy and the creature looks like it’s got a funny pig-like nose. There is a small latex model used for close-ups when it attacks and this looks infinitely better than its rubbery CGI brother.

Arguably the scariest part of the film is when Phillips takes a tour of the carnival and meets some of the freaks. Even then the film shows little creativity and it’s got to be the most pathetic looking carnival ever! No wonder everyone looks so depressed with their lives if they’re touring the country with that. Not content with just having the Jersey Devil as the monster, the film also falls into the same trap as so many recent creature features in having to have a human villain throw a spanner in the works of the hero, this time the sinister carnival manager who wants to protect his asset. He’s more terrifying than the beast itself but the role is too cartoony to turn him into a big threat. He even has a right-hand man who wears an eye-patch. Not quite a Bond villain but it was good for a chuckle.

Lou Diamond Phillips is the token named actor on board for this one and plays a sheriff role similar to the one he had in Bats. He sleeps his way through his, presumably well aware that he’s getting paid at the end regardless of how he performs. To be fair, he’s reliable and a steady hand but the role could have been given to anyone – he’s here solely to put his name on the front cover.

 

Carny would have made a decent The X-Files episode (in fact the Jersey Devil was featured in one episode if my memory serves me correct) but as a feature film, it’s just awful. The only reason it gets any marks is because of the ending which really goes against the genre norm. I won’t spoil it but Carny isn’t worth sitting through to find out either!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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