Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood
directed by Eric Speeth
starring Janine Carazo, Jerome Dempsey, Hervé Villechaize and Daniel Dietrich
Out in West Nowhereville, PA, an amusement park grinds to a halt in the 1973 recession. Run by the creepy yet elegant Mr. Blood (Dempsy) it looks like he’s trying to sell the dump, but the potential buyers never returned from the musty Tunnel of False Love ride. Inside the park are an assortment of odd and creepy carney rejects ranging from to a young Hervé Villechaize as the blood thirsty dwarf to a sexually ambiguous fortune teller Malatesta (Dietrich). Shoddy as the park may be, it’s full of secret passages, endlessly interesting lighting, and even a love nest made from a VW Beetle hanging upside down and filled with bubble pac. The lead scream queen is Vena (Carazo) who spends most of her time running down a country road in her nightie. Down in the bowels of this un-funhouse are a bunch of unidentified mooks who you know are destined to die the moment you saw them. You may not care much about them, but the deaths are all as funny as a movie death can be. Thus the central dramatic questions are: Who survives? And who really cares? Made in the era when Satanic horror was big (think The Exorcist) this stylish 1973 rip-off relies on a small budget, big imagination, minimal props and unknown actors. A few scenes are truly cringe worthy and a few nauseating; this film drips style as well as bodily fluids.
While the scrip is weak the actors did excellent work with what they were given, and director Speeth made good use of the decayed park. Dempsy’s Mr. Blood is the elegant guy with a cane, rationalizing here and explaining away there as people disappear into the bowels of his depreciating real estate. Maletesta is the sexually ambiguous tarot reader who tries to unsuccessfully scare away victims, but not until after he’s paid. While a looming presence, he never projects much menace, just a sense they picked your pocket and now you don’t have a driver’s license. Bill Preston is a creepy green guy with a glass eye, his back story in the commentary is the most entertaining of all. Punk kids get their comeuppance on deadly rides but you never really came to hate them. Sure, they pick on other kids but it never comes up to even a decent high school hazing. While the horror here is reasonable enough for the early 1970’s, it’s not truly scary in my mind. Rather, it’s a more like a Halloween scare house where half the ghosts are your buddies. The director’s commentary is exceptional, the back story of the park and the film are as good as any, and they spend a good amount of time discussing Carazo and Villechaize and Mr. Preston. I enjoyed the whole thing, but then I don’t really like the flying intestine school of shock. This is a film buff’s horror show; style and ingenuity rule and the really bad stuff is mostly off-screen. And DO check out all the special features here, they really enhance the experience.