I have one more week of the flashback reviews, then it is on to the movies I received this year. Today, will be my last time watching one of the Maneater series of movies for this blog, at least until I buy The Hollow (2015). Anyways, the legend of the Jersey Devil, much like any other cryptid, always fascinated me when I was a kid. True, it doesn’t get the love that Sasquatch or Nessie has received over the years but it was always an interesting story to read. I had often thought that this would be a neat idea for a movie, as most other cryptids have had their shots at fame, so I was glad to learn that the Maneater series had done just that, releasing Carny in 2009 which I watched as soon as I was able, then bought on DVD shortly afterwards.
The plot: Late one night, a man meets up with Cap, the owner of a traveling carnival, in the small town of Reliance and sells him the legendary Jersey Devil, which the man had captured. Cap pays the man but as he goes to walk away, Cap quickly stabs him in the back, then tells his assistant Quinn to get rid of the body. When Quinn returns, Cap goes to the truck the Jersey Devil is in and shoots it with a tranquilizer, then tells Quinn to move it into a cage but the Jersey Devil regains consciousness and attacks Quinn, ripping his face and eye before Cap can shoot it with more tranquilizers and knock it out. The next day, Sheriff Atlas is approached by Luke, the local tow truck driver, who had brought in an abandoned vehicle (the truck of the man who had captured the Jersey Devil). As Atlas looks around the truck, he notices a piece of bloody cloth in the back and, noting the New Jersey plates, tells Luke to take it around back and he will look into it. When he enters the station, he finds his deputy Rogers on the phone with Pastor Owens, who is upset about the carnival being in town and wants the sheriff to run them off. Atlas heads over to the carnival, as he needs to make sure they have the proper permits, but he is unnerved by the people/exhibits that work there. He eventually finds Cap, who offers to show him around and has Samara, the carnival’s fortune teller, read Atlas’ fortune but when she touches his hand, she sees blood and death but lies to atlas, saying the visions are unclear. As Cap continues showing Atlas around, Atlas notices the posters/tent advertising the Jersey Devil and heads inside to see, shocked to find the caged creature is real, and he decides to leave the carnival, promising to be that night for the opening. Meanwhile, Pastor Owens is getting ready to head into town to “save the town’s soul”, and tells his son Taylor to go door to door to get more people to show up. After Owens leaves, Taylor heads to an abandoned barn and drinks with his friend Jesse before heading to the carnival that night. In the town square, Owens is preaching about the carnival promoting the devil’s work and Atlas notes this to his deputy before he heads over to the carnival. As the carnival starts, Cap is in the tent preparing to display the Jersey Devil to the crowd and when he does, Taylor and Jesse mock it and Taylor throws peanuts at it. The Jersey Devil gets enraged and manages to break free of it’s cage, injuring several people before flying off into the sky, crashing into the Ferris wheel as it leaves. As Atlas helps get the wounded tended too, he is confronted by Owens, who blames Atlas for what happened because he didn’t shut down the carnival and threatens to take matters into his own hands if he doesn’t do something. Atlas goes to see Cap and tells him that the carnival is shut down until further notice and he plans to hunt down the Jersey Devil in the morning but after he leaves, Cap and Quinn make plans to bring the Jersey Devil back to the carnival alive. Cap goes to see Samara, to see her packing her things, saying that she knows this won’t end well and wants no part of it. Cap gives her a guilt trip about giving her a home when nobody else would and she agrees to stay long enough for him to recapture the Jersey Devil, then asks Cap to bring her something it touched. Elsewhere, Taylor and Jesse had fallen asleep in the abandoned barn when they are woken by a dog. As Jesse pets the dog, he notices that it has blood on it’s fur, just as Taylor sees a foot nearby. Suddenly, the Jersey Devil attacks the barn and chases after Taylor and Jesse as they try to run. As Jesse hides in the wrecked car on the property, Taylor runs into the woods and hides under a bridge but the Jersey Devil finds and kills him. Back at the carnival, Cap hands Samara a piece of skin from the Jersey Devil from when it crashed into the Ferris wheel and she uses it to see the future but the vision she has offers no help for Cap. The next morning, Jesse stumbles into the road and is almost hit by Luke, who calls in Atlas. Atlas heads out there to talk with Jesse, then heads into the woods and finds Taylor’s body, as well as the body of the man that captured the Jersey Devil. As the ambulance arrives to collect the bodies, Owens shows up and demands to see his son’s body, causing him to break down in tears before recovering and telling Atlas that it is his fault that Taylor is dead, then vows to make sure the “freaks” know the meaning of suffering. Atlas and Rogers head back into the woods where they are collecting the body parts from the second victim and Atlas says that the Jersey Devil didn’t do this, and believes the dead man is the owner of the truck. Meanwhile, Cap and Quinn are hunting the Jersey Devil when they come across Atlas and Rogers collecting the body parts and Quinn says he believes that they found where he dumped the body, causing Cap to chastise him. Meanwhile, Jesse and his mother are driving out of town, with his mother chastising him for being with Taylor, when the Jersey Devil grabs Jesse from the car and flies him up to the air. Jesse’s mom gets out of the car and screams out for Jesse, only to have his dead body fall back onto the car and she starts crying over her dead son when the Jersey Devil suddenly swoops down and grabs her, carrying her off to kill her. Atlas stops by the carnival to see Samara, where she shows him some books about the Jersey Devil that her family had, and then heads back to town, where he organizes hunting parties to kill the Jersey Devil. As Atlas and Rogers are searching the woods, Rogers is accidentally shot by Quinn, and Atlas grabs his weapon and chastises Cap and Quinn for being out there. Hearing the Jersey Devil flying in the sky nearby, Atlas asks Cap and Quinn to take Rogers back to town for help while he keeps hunting him. Cap and Quinn carry Rogers close to the carnival but then Cap decides to use Rogers as bait to capture the Jersey Devil. He shoots Rogers with a tranquilizer dart but Rogers yells out for help so Quinn stabs him. When the devil shows up, Rogers shoots at it before Cap can take his shot and the Jersey Devil kills him before flying off. Atlas shows up at the scene just as screaming is heard, as the Jersey Devil is attacking the carnival. Atlas manages to chase the Jersey Devil off and Samara yells at Cap for what he has done. Later, Cap makes a new batch of tranquilizers to use against the Jersey Devil, then heads out to the woods with Quinn, whom he kills in order to use as bait. Meanwhile, Atlas is examining Rogers’ body when he finds the tip of the tranquilizer dart in Rogers’ back and realizes what had happened. Back in the woods, Cap is lying in wait for the Jersey Devil when it appears behind him and attacks him but he manages to shoot it with his new tranquilizers and knock it out. Cap heads back to the carnival, yelling for someone to get some chains to recapture the Jersey Devil but Atlas is there waiting for him and after punching him, he arrests Cap for murder. Atlas takes Cap to the station and locks him in a cell but Owens appears behind him and knocks him out. Owens then locks Atlas in the armory, then moves towards Cap and, using Cap’s knife, slices up his tongue. As Cap writhes in pain, Owens grabs a revolver and opens the cell, intending to kill Cap but the Jersey Devil had recovered and crashes through the window, knocking Owens down before moving towards Cap and killing him. Owens locks the Jersey Devil in the cell, then shoots at it but when he runs out of bullets, he grabs two of Cap’s tranquilizers and jabs them into the Jersey Devil, knocking it out. Thinking he had killed the Jersey Devil, he leaves the station, where he encounters Luke and a few other men, and tells them he had killed the Jersey Devil, then tells them that they need to deal with the carnival freaks, as they are the ones responsible for bringing the Jersey Devil to their town. Luke and the others grab the Jersey Devil and bring it to the carnival, where they intend to burn it as well as the carnival and the townsfolk race into the carnival, setting everything ablaze and attacking the freaks. As Owens stands by and watches the carnage he started, the Jersey Devil regains consciousness and attacks Owens. Meanwhile, Atlas regains consciousness and uses a shotgun to shoot the lock off the door, then heads to the carnival, seeing Owen’s dead body at the front of the carnival. Racing inside, he sees everything on fire and calls out for Samara when he sees the Jersey Devil and shoots at it but it flies off. Seeing Samara, Atlas goes to her and asks if she is ok, just as the Jersey Devil lands on a nearby trailer. Atlas goes to shoot it but the propane tank from the trailer behind him explodes, knocking him and Samara down and scaring off the Jersey Devil. Atlas recovers but finds that his gun is by some fire and too hot to grab. The Jersey Devil returns and Atlas tries to lure it away from Samara but it chases after her. Samara runs for the Ferris wheel and when the Jersey Devil tries to kill her, the “Gentle Giant” yells out to it and it attacks him instead. Suddenly, Atlas drives up in a truck and slams into the Jersey Devil, pinning it to the Ferris wheel. Samara tries to get him out of the truck but Atlas tells her that if he lets off the gas, it will get free and that she needs to get out of there, just before the Ferris wheel falls on both of them. When the dust settles, Samara races to the truck to find Atlas mortally wounded and he tells her he did what he had to before he dies, and Samara lays her head down on his chest.
This was honestly a bit darker of a movie than I was expecting, which made it pretty good. The acting was good, with Lou Diamond Phillips doing a good job as Atlas, but I have to say that Vlasta Vrana kind of stole the show as Pastor Owens. The story was pretty good, with a great way of explaining the appearance of the Jersey Devil, though I wish they would have done a better job of explaining how it was caught in the first place. I apologize in advance if I offend anyone with this next bit but there is one thing I would like to point out concerning one of the plot points in the movie. If I am to be totally honest, Pastor Owens showcased every bad stereotype when it comes to religion. His fire and brimstone approach, and labeling the carnival freaks as minions of the Devil and evil, just because they were different, and needed to be destroyed was a little to real for my taste, as there are plenty of people who act like this in the real world. The special effects regarding the Devil’s appearance were decent, though they made him look too much like a dragon than he should have. Still, it was a good design and the interactions between it and the human cast were pretty good. A pretty good entry into the series and one worth giving a try.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5