*Contains only vague and minor spoilers*
Some of you may have heard of the latest series of cult classic films to lure the dark and morbid out of their caves and into movie theaters around America. If you haven’t, I highly suggest that you check out The Devil’s Carnival. This project is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich—the producer and writer behind the beloved gothic musical, Repo: The Genetic Opera. Bousman is also well known to horror-lovers as the director of several of the Saw movies. This new project, however, is not horror in the traditional sense. Much like Repo, The Devil’s Carnival is a musical with dark themes and aesthetics. The first movie, The Devil’s Carnival: Episode One was released in 2012, with Terrance, Darren, and several of the actors touring around various movie theaters with the film to drum up support for this independent project. After a long wait, the sequel had finally arrived and is currently touring around the country. I went to see the show not once, but twice in the past couple weeks and I was not disappointed. Alleluia: The Devil’s Carnival is the perfect film for dark-minded book lovers.
Both films in the series so far have had strong literary themes, highlighted by the fact that each narrative is framed by parallels to particular tales from Aesop’s Fables. But the second film takes its bookishness to a whole new level. Alleluia tells the story of a war between heaven and hell. Which side should you be on? If your gothic sensibilities don’t already incline you toward the damned denizens, Lucifer’s and God’s relative stances on literature are enough to convince any book lover to root for the fallen over the heavenly.
In these films, hell is a place that celebrates literature and sharing stories. We’ve already been given a hint in the first film that one of Lucifer’s favorite past times is reading aloud from Aesop’s Fables to his sinners and carnies. He continues this trend in Alleluia, preferring to turn to the books and see what he can learn from stories of the past rather than making more obvious preparations for war.
Heaven, on the other hand, seems almost hostile to literature and seeks to control its citizens’ access to stories, as we see through the extended flashbacks in Alleluia. Though heaven has a beautiful library, curated by a solemn yet sparkling librarian, it’s not exactly a safe and relaxing space to curl up with a good book. Without spoiling too much, the library in this film is the setting for multiple scenes of violence and punishment. Moreover, a significant portion of the books are kept under lock and key, and the forbidden fruit is represented by a tantalizing cloth-bound tome with a golden apple on its spine. Who wants to live in a place that punishes you and casts you out for wanting to read a book?
These contrasting attitudes toward the sharing of stories serve as a fun representation of one of the oldest battles in history. The question of good versus evil is shown in a different light when it becomes instead a question of having your access barred to the stories you want versus having them read to you in Terrance Zdunich’s sultry voice. Which would you choose? If you know the right answer to that question, you should check out the remaining tour stops and see whether Alleluia: The Devil’s Carnival is coming to a city near you. If not, you can join me in the eager wait for when the DVD comes out.
If you’ve seen Alleluia already, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments (though try to avoid big spoilers for those who haven’t). If you haven’t seen it, which of Aesop’s Fables are you hoping will make an appearance? Who are some of your other favorite book-loving villains or anti-heroes? And what book do you think would tempt you out of heaven?