There are never enough carnival patrons or ambient noise to convince the audience to suspend disbelief, and the sets are claustrophobic. Among the carnies is a sword swallower who is also a knife thrower who is also a ventriloquist who is also a magician—with this one-man show, the rest of the carnival is redundant!
One very strange scene shows the curator of an exhibition of embryos in jars. He talks to the embryos and they talk and cry. It actually seems as if this might be part of the story. Really… don’t talking, dead embryos suspended in liquid demand some kind of explanation? By the way, they aren’t animated in any way; even wailing embryos whose Mason jars have been smashed don’t twitch or move a muscle. It’s all just a setup to add another corpse to the pile.
In the most entertaining scene, the strongman is jumped by a gang of locals. The choreography of their fight is cartoon-like, though fights in early Popeye cartoons are more impressive. As you would expect from the description so far, the strong man is not muscle-bound. He can, though, fight off four men at once.
As it turns out Carnies is a lower-tier B-movie. Trying to find something that it does right—just one thing—the best one can say is, “It ends.” Scheduled for an October 12 release, the DVD includes seven special features: “Behind the Scenes,” Doug Jones interview (Doug Jones being the only memorable member of the cast), Reggie Bannister interview, a music video, a slideshow, the original trailer, and coming attractions.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Carnies? None of the above. Director Brian Corder might have done better if he tried for a horror comedy rather than a “thriller/drama.”