Carny is about a travelling carnival that manages to get hold of a (the?) Jersey Devil for one of its exhibits. The beast looks about as dangerous as a fat old bulldog with stumpy wings. Think Pete’s Dragon. Of course, it gets loose. Local sheriff Lou Diamond Phillips has to deal with the creature, which is what local sheriffs do all the time in horror movies. Furthermore, Lou Diamond Phillips has experience as a local sheriff dealing with creatures. You saw the Bats, right? That was about bats, as you can probably tell from the title. When I was a kid, killer bat movies had much better titles. For instance, Arthur Hiller’s Nightwing. Would you rather see a movie about killer bats called Bats or Nightwing? I rest my case.
So Lou Diamond Phillips does some forensics work with a tape measure. He says the line, “If it bleeds, we can kill it”. Finally, he uses his pick-up truck and a ferris wheel to kill the Jersey Devil. I think he falls in love with a fortune teller, who rushes to his side as he’s dying. She says to him that he didn’t have to do this, and with his dying breath he basically says that, yes, he did. “I did what I had to do,” he says while letting fake blood drool out of his mouth. What a jerk. She was trying to be nice and he shoots her down like that.
The real sin of these Syfy creature features is how little craft or even attention is put into them. They reek of made-for-TV. And that’s a very different quality than low-budget. Low budget almost necessarily means there’s going to be a degree of care, if not craft, in a movie. Low budget is often passionate, or at least charmingly oblivious. But made-for-TV is just product, slapped together, quick and dirty.
At one point, Lou Diamond Phillips punches the villainous carnival owner. The punched actor snaps his head to the side and sprays out a mess of fake blood across the side of a trailer. The stuff spatters and drips down. Did they mean to use that much blood? It’s like Lou Diamond Phillips just punched a gallon jug of red syrup. They’re really going to use that take? Yes, they are, because this isn’t just low budget. It’s made-for-TV. Oh, and the point of this movie, is that the real monsters are…us! It’s kind of depressing that someone wrote a script and intended a message, yet it gets made with all the care of an actor spitting far too much red syrup on the side of a caravan.
(Carny is available on DVD. But so are plenty of other movies you’d be better off watching. Such as Chupacabra Terror.)