Story: As The Great Depression continues to ravage the rural United States, one tradition remains alive and touring throughout the embattled states, the traveling carnivals. After all, for a small amount of coin, people can escape the harsh realities of life and seek out entertainment, even if they might get hoodwinked a time or two in the process. One such carnival is the Knuckle Brothers Carnival, a colorful crew of performers who have just arrived at their next locale to set up shop. What should be a few days of midway games, freak shows, and three ring magic takes an unexpected turn however, when some of the carnival workers begin turning up dead. The deaths aren’t normal by any definition, with crimes scenes that resemble some kind of wild animal attack, but clues are minimal and the tension starts to boil over. Who or what is targeting the carnival workers and can anyone survive long enough to uncover the truth?
Entertainment Value: I love stories about the world of carnivals, from books to movies to whatever else I can track down, so I thought Carnies would be worth a look. Despite my established interest in the subject matter, I could never get into this one and that’s too bad, as there is such potential in the circus atmosphere. The story is passable, but plays more like a basic murder mystery that happens to take place at a carnival, rather than making the most of the circus world. I’d rather have seen the carny culture worked in more with less emphasis on the rather dull mystery than unfolds. I found the bulk of the duration to be on the slow side and the horror elements were downplayed more than I liked, so I just didn’t find a lot here I was into.
One issue I had is that despite the vast potential for colorful, interesting characters and situations, Carnies is content with forgettable characters and keeping the craziness needle on the low end. There is some light sex and violence at times, but for a movie about the seedier side of carnivals, it is quite tame in those regards. The cast has a couple of known names involved, with Doug Jones and horror veteran Reggie Bannister both on the ensemble’s list. The performances across the board are watchable, but not as fun or over the top as I had hoped. I would have been satisfied with super creepy or sleazy type folks lurking around, but the movie doesn’t do much to draft memorable or wild characters. In the end, I can’t recommend this one, as it just doesn’t bring much to the table.
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