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Carnival Of Blood
(1970)
 

Director: Leonard Kirtman                 
Cast:
Earle Edgerton, Judith Resnick, Burt Young


I've seen plenty of attempts by B-movie directors to emulate the style of other directors, though they usually pick famous directors like Alfred Hitchcock to plagiarize. For Carnival Of Blood, however, it seems that director Leonard Kirtman chose not to copy an "A" movie director, or even a B-movie director. Instead, his inspiration seems to have come from the king of "Z" movies - Herschell Gordon Lewis, the author of legendary ultra-splatter movies like Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs. A very odd choice (to say the least) I think most people would agree with, seeing just how crude in all departments these movies are. But, on the other hand, one could argue that there's a lot of room for improvement. Seeing how inept Lewis' movies are, it shouldn't be too hard to create a movie with a similar theme, but with better acting, directing, and writing. That's what you'd think, but Carnival Of Blood manages to be even worse than Lewis' worst.

There are certainly some gory scenes to behold here. One woman gets decapitated while on a haunted house ride. Amazing how her severed head manages to stay on her neck until her cart comes out and stops. (Then it's amazing that, after we're shown a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of her head falling off, two cops cars with their sirens shrieking pull up two seconds later.) Another woman, while making out with her drunk sailor boyfriend on the nearby beach and positioned exactly how the beach couple in Blood Feast were, gets ripped apart. To prevent any accusations of plagiarism, the killer here pulls out her intestines instead of her brain, though the way the camera locks onto the action while bad haunting music plays, Lewis could still sue.

For further proof that the movie is ripping off his work, he could also point out to the next murder sequence. Not only is this victim yet another woman, but the killer dispatches of her by pulling out her tongue - which the killer in Blood Feast did to one unlucky victim in that movie. All of this might sound appealing to some viewers, either in that they feel their bloodthirst would be satisfied, or their funny bone tickled to see a recreation of Lewis' typically inept direction in these murder sequences. Neither of these is done anywhere well enough to be entertaining. While we do get to see intestines, eyeballs removed by hand, and a considerable serving of blood, viewers will react to all of this with the equivalent of a shrug. Not only is it not realistic enough to shake us, but it's also so phony that we don't laugh. There is no sign in these gory effects that the makeup department was trying; had they been trying, it might have been funny, or maybe even realistic enough to shake us.

To make matters worse, the murders are few and far between; in fact, the first half of the movie only has one murder sequence. The time in-between these few murders are mostly made up of arguing. Not just any old arguing, the kind that uttered in that shrieky way that gets under your skin and makes you shudder. What's even more agonizing about all these arguments is of what is argued about, either topics too inane for anyone in real life to keep arguing about minutes on end, or for topics or situations that would only ever happen if the characters were complete and utter idiots.

The first characters that we meet include a couple in the beginning who are at the Coney Island carnival; the man keeps complaining that they were supposed to have gone home long ago, but she keeps up her whining about trying other stuff. And whines more. And more. Oh, does she whine. She whines long, she whines hard, and within second of her introduction I wanted her to suffer the most painful and agonizing death possible -  the sooner the better. But minutes went by at the speed hours go by, and I realized the most painful and agonizing death that there could be would be watching this scene. Just before I was about to die, she finally got the chop. Thank you, thank you so much, oh what a relief - oh, sorry. Then there is the protagonist couple, Dan and Laura. Dan is the assistant D.A. who is for some reason assigned to find out who the killer is, instead of someone on the police force. What a guy; he decides to have a busman's celebration by asking Laura to come with him to the carnival to celebrate their engagement while he pokes around the creepy carnival. At least it gets them out of their crappy apartment, where plenty of footage is wasted showing the two bickering (shudder), having ugly sex, etc.

Also, we meet Tom, a really nice friend of Laura who works at the carnival - well, I guess I didn't have to emphasize those words, since you've probably watched horror movies before. Tom has a hunchbacked and feeble-minded assistant named Gimpy, who is played by Burt Young (using the pseudonym "John Harris".) He sports some really bad makeup on his face that I can't tell whether is supposed to be super acne, places where people stubbed out their cigarettes, or some other bizarre medical condition. In a role that seems to have no purpose other than to put an obvious red herring on the screen, Young mumbles and whines in all of his scenes. Though we are supposed to feel sorry for him, we just feel annoyed. Speaking of annoying, there is this fat woman introduced in the second half of the movie who immediately starts whining when she enters the movie. And whines more. And more. Oh, does she whine. She whines long, she whines hard, and within second of her introduction I wanted her to suffer the most painful and agonizing death possible -  the sooner the better. But minutes went by at the speed hours go by etc. etc.

There is almost no story to be found here. Almost all of the movie is made up of people arguing for minutes on end and stumbling around in the dark minutes on end, punctuated by the occasional murder. In fact, all of the investigation and solving of the case all takes place in the last five minutes, and even that's stretched out longer than it should be. All there is before those five minutes to shake us out of the pain inflicted by those shrieking actors is the novelty of being presented with some of the most incompetent direction and production values even in a movie. A large chunk of my notes listed many such instances, including:
 

  • Microphones bobbing very prominently into the bottom of the screen
  • Wires from microphones hidden on the bodies of the actors clearly seen leading out from under their shirts
  • A bulge in one actor's shirt pocket where the microphone is obviously hidden
  • Actors in the foreground way overlit while the background is very dark or completely black
  • Other close-up shots of the actors significantly out of focus
  • Hand-held camerawork that frequently chops off the tops of the actors' heads
  • Very obvious lack of continuity (e.g. actor has a hand on his face in one shot, but in the next shot his other hand is on his face)
  • Most, if not all of the film having the dialogue looped, and quite obviously as well
  • Even then, much of the dialogue is still hard to make out
  • Endless shots ending with actors walking into the camera until the image turns black
  • Editing night sequences with day sequences that are supposed to be happening at the same time
Not even Mystery Science Theater 3000 could have saved Carnival Of Blood. It's one of the worse movies ever made.

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Also: Confessions Of A Serial Killer, The Devil's Rain, Video Violence

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