The first entry in Arrow video’s American Horror Project is a film I would have never heard of or seen otherwise. In all honesty Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is a bag of shit. Even at a meager 74 minutes I actually struggled to make it through the film without having my laptop nearby to distract me from its awfulness. But given my trust in Arrow, if they have chosen to save this film from obscurity then there must be something worth saving right?
Okay. The set-up is fun. A couple infiltrate a fun-fair in order to find their missing son but end up being picked off by the cannibals who dwell in the tunnels beneath the rides. B-side Bond villain Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) crops up as the obligatory horror movie dwarf. I really like Vellechaize and when he’s on screen he brings some much-needed charisma into the proceedings. There’s a gonzo nuttiness to everything as well that is enjoyable. You know this was made for no money, probably by filmmakers who didn’t have a clue what they were doing but there’s something about a bunch of people banding together to make a horror movie that never ceases to warm my heart. Many of the scenes look like they were lit by car-headlights which I like to think was an aesthetic decision rather than a practical one. I don’t know. If you aint got money, improvise!
As far as carnival-set shockers go I can’t pretend it’s anywhere near as good as Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse or (the gold standard) Carnival of Souls but I will say that the location work is pretty damn impressive. Speeth shot the film in a real carnival after hours and the added production design has a junky charm that wouldn’t be apparent if they had more money. The film reminded me of the utterly fucking awful Manos: The Hands of Fate in its utterly fucking awful acting, pacing and construction and I doubt I will ever sit through this again but something tells me when I’ve seen all three of the films in this boxset I won’t feel the need to toss it onto the sell pile. Movies like Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood are as much a document of a certain period in American cinema as they are forgettable genre fodder. Horror is where the heart is. I can appreciate that.