The year is 1936 and while there is a depression going on, a traveling sideshow continues to put on shows even though they are struggling to make ends meet like everyone else. Things take a turn when a mysterious stranger shows up and starts killing off carnies one by one. With the growing number of performers disappearing, it becomes the surviving carnies job to find out who is responsible behind these disappearances. Though they may not like the answers they find as there is an other-worldly presence that looms over the sideshow and it is quite evil.
"Carnies" is the latest movie to be released by R-Squared Movies and it was another title that I hadn't heard much about but the trailer made it seem promising. A traveling sideshow circus leaves the door open for plenty of options, and best of all the movie isn't trying to be the next "Freaks". Initially it seemed like the movie was going to take a page from noir flicks but drop into a circus setting, but "Carnies" definitely hits closer to horror than anything else.
The trailer and synopsis tries to lead you into the direction of believing "Carnies" is going to be a murder mystery, and it very well could have been, but instead it follows the path of horror. It is disappointing in a sense because I thought the setup would have made for an excellent horror-noir; a slasher style murder-mystery taking place with sideshow performers. For whatever reason though, the movie sets itself up for that angle but it never does anything with it. We watch as different performers are killed off one-by-one and disappear without a trace, but none of the surviving characters ever seem to really care. They're merely brushed off as being no big deal that they're gone or the common excuse of being a character's typical behavior and that they'll turn up shortly. So we're left to watch as the remaining cast of characters go about their daily activities and wait until someone else is killed by this unknown stranger. Hell, even the detective character doesn't show up until the end.
"Carnies" is a competently made movie and I would say is more technically sound than most low-budget indie horror movies. Even if the story is lacking. It's well edited and the pace is smooth but a little slow, which more or less is the result of not much occurring in between the kill scenes. In general, it has a good production value with well made set pieces and costumes, great lighting, a nice ensemble of characters that are matched with decent performances by the actors. The movie gives you plenty of material to enjoy it, and for whatever strange reason that I haven't been able to place my finger on just yet, the movie reminded me of a "Tales From the Crypt" episode. Maybe it was from the fact that the movie jogs you along in a certain direction and then by the end throws in a nice little twist to the story. Bare with me here before you start rolling your eyes. This isn't one of those shitty M. Night style twists where it completely screws over the story. It's one of those fun twists that works well with the story but not necessarily where you thought it would go, like so many "Tales From the Crypt" episodes.
I'm probably alone in that comparison but I think it's fitting and is one of the reasons why I found myself enjoying the movie more towards the end. After it was all over though the movie is pretty forgettable. It had plenty of potential to be something worthwhile and interesting; there were enough elements there. Unfortunately though, the movie doesn't have much going on in between the kill scenes and nothing engaging starts to occur until the last half of the movie. "Carnies" is an easy movie to digest but ultimately one that will be forgotten because it is only a decent at best kinda flick.