Arrow Video is back with another great release, this one being AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, an ongoing series of collections that will give Criterion level love to some of the most obscure and overlooked American horror films. This review will specifically look at MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD.
The second film in Arrow’s first AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT collection is a low rent Lynchian fever dream of a film called Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood. The film was released in a few drive-ins in the mid 70’s and then considered lost for 30 years before a print was “miraculously” discovered in the early 2000’s. With a bizarre title and a few cryptic glowing reviews that appeared in the sketchier recesses of the internet, MCoB was released to minor fanfare. After you get past the initial fun factor of hearing about a long lost horror film suddenly uncovered, you realize that the film is a jumbled, nonsensical mess whose zero budget and amateur hour filmmaking make it no better than some of the travesties you’d find in the $5 Wal-Mart bin or on Netflix streaming.
There’s not really a coherent plot to MCoB and it can pretty much be summed up with one sentence. A family shows up to work at a carnival in search of their missing child only to find that the carnival is run by ghouls and vampires. That’s it. The rest of the film constitutes poorly framed shots, terrible acting, and laughable editing decisions. There are a few moments of hilarious blood and gore. One sequence involves a decapitation on a roller coaster that looks like something a bunch of elementary school kids would do as a Halloween gag. The “blood” looks like orange pudding and the zombies/ghouls have a generic flat face makeup that make them look like the low rent stuff you’d see at your local zombie walk.
What this film does have going for it is the strange way it is filmed. Almost everything in this has a bizarre, dream like quality to it. As I stated before, it’s very David Lynchian in terms of weird stuff that doesn’t make sense. You’ll see a shot of a creepy carnival clown, then a slow motion shot of a girl running down a road. It has a very artsy fartsy look and feel to it and though some of the shots do, indeed, look good, a broken clock is right twice a day. I’d almost call this an experimental film if I didn’t know that the director was actually *trying* to do something non-experimental. I’ve read some reviews of people claiming that this film has merit due to the weirdness of everything involved (zombies in the basement that like to watch silent horror films of the 20’s, vampires running the carnival, etc.) but I’d have to strongly disagree. This thing is painful to try and get through. It doesn’t work as an experimental film and it certainly doesn’t work as a narrative film. Sometimes, people give a pass to old films and ascribe value and worth where there is none. MCoB is one of those films. I’ve seen this movie made by many filmmakers today and they are all just as bad.
The Arrow disc has a few interviews but I can’t honestly say you’ll want to watch any of them if you can actually make it to the end of this. This is probably the first Arrow release that I felt was just outright terrible and doubly disappointing coming off the excellent The Witch Who Came from the Sea, part of this very 3 disc collection. But hey, you can’t win them all. Only recommended if you like doing LSD while watching no-budget David Lynch knockoffs.