'The Devil's Carnival' – Step Right Up and See Bousman's Horror/Musical Stepchild

'The Devil's Carnival' – Step Right Up and See Bousman's Horror/Musical Stepchild

Audiences can see two very different sides of “Saw” co-creator Darren Lynn Bousman in theaters now.

The more conventionally minded can check out “Mother’s Day,” Bousman’s remake of the 1980 cheap horror film starring Rebecca De Mornay as the twisted Momma. Or, they can cross their fingers that “The Devil’s Carnival” is heading to their town.

The Devil’s Carnival” fuses horror and musical stylings in a similar fashion to Bousman’s previous hybrid, “Repo! The Genetic Musical.” But this time, Bousman is calling the shots. All the shots. No studio. No distributor. Very little cash. Only seven days to shoot. And he’s bringing the film to fans via a traveling film event rather than a standard theatrical release.

“We don’t ask permission. We just do what we want,” Bousman said during last night’s “Carnival” stop in Denver. The event brought out a crush of “Repo!” fans, many dressed like their favorite characters. Lazy spotlights worked the interior of the Oriental Theater where the movie was shown, and the crowd hooted over every sexual innuendo and devilish proclamation barked by the production’s hosts.

First, attendees were treated to an impressive fire-juggling act. Next, a behind-the-scenes peek at “Repo” hit the big screen, the kind of footage normally seen on DVD or Blu-ray extras. Members of the “Carnival” cast were on hand to read a few Aesop’s Fables, tales which tie loosely to the “Carnival” story line.

The main event was shorter than a standard feature-length film, but filled with oddly catchy songs powered by a macabre carnival beat. Sean Patrick Flanery stars as a man who commits suicide to reunite with his recently deceased son only to find himself lost in a titular “Carnival.” Other lost souls end up in the very same place, but the film’s narrative is so pliable the focus is more on mood and emotion than standard storytelling.

And it’s only the first episode of a series of musical films Bousman plans to bring to the public.

“We want to make it cool to come to the theater,” Bousman told the raucous crowd of his “Carnival” experiment.

The director said he could have gone the Kickstarter route to fund the project, but he had something different in mind.

“We have so many talented artists with us. We can give you something right off the bat,” he said. Later, he implored ticket holders to share the “Carnival” experience via social media and support future installments by picking up T-shirts and movie soundtracks.

His mission isn’t just creating more “Carnivals.” He wants to shake up the Hollywood system.

“We’re trying to make enough noise to make them notice,” he says. And it might just work. In today’s fractured pop culture landscape, niche projects can survive and even thrive without ever attempting to reach a mass audience.

The frenzied folks on hand to greet Bousman’s “Carnival” would surely agree.

“The Devil’s Carnival” arrives in Salt Lake City tonight, Seattle on Wednesday and Portland on Thursday. The film’s Facebook page features more destinations.

Bousman predicts the film will be available on home video in roughly three months, although he said no firm distribution deal is in place yet. But it’s hard to imagine the home watching experience will match any of the stops on Bousman’s “Carnival” tour.