Directed by: Jack Clayton (The Innocents)
Written by: Ray Bradbury (a whole bunch of awesomeness)
An evil carnival comes to town and does abstractly evil things to people who ride its carousel. There’s also a spider-lady.
WHAT YOU SAY?
“Don’t talk death!”
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
This film is from a dark time in the history of the Disney studios. It scared a bunch of kids and lost a crapload of money.
Normally, that would be enough to draw my attention. But on top of that, I have fond memories of watching this on the Disney Channel around Halloween time. They used to play this every year (along with Hocus Pocus and Frankenstein and Me). I would always catch parts of it and get pretty scared.
Nooooope. The only eye candy is female… and blind… and in the movie for about two minutes… and female.
There weren’t any murders or gore, but there was genuine terror in this film. Mr. Dark is truly a villain for the ages. He plays with the main characters and taunts them. Just watch the scene where he offers Jason Robards if he wants to wish for youth. His opening offer is for the old man to be 30 again, but the old man refuses. So he offers him 31. Then 32. Then 33. Every time a year passes by, he rips another page from his book. It’s a dramatic, actor-y scene, and it’s freaking harrowing.
The film’s fatal flaw, however, is the completely non-expressive child actors, who sleepwalk through all the horror. There’s a scene where dozens of spiders crawl all over them, and the blonde kid practically yawns. Whenever they’re on screen, it saps the film of any real suspense.
Movie carnivals come in two forms: the romantic comedy version and the horror movie version. One involves a couple bonding over cheap toys and the bright lights of a Ferris wheel. The other involves evil. This film does not have Ferris wheels.
Sadly, this movie does.
Fun fact: During filming, Ray Bradbury got pissed with the director for straying too much from his original story (and for hiring another writer to zhoosh up the script, which… burn). There was a big falling out, but after some bad test screenings, Disney brought Bradbury back to tweak the opening and closing. That’s why we have unnecessary narration that comes out of nowhere.
Stop talking, VOICE. You're ruining the moment.
OK. IS IT GAY?
Look, this is definitely of interest to the horror fan. Even though it was made for family audiences, it’s stylish and freaking scary. (And pretty stupid at times, too. I’m not going to ignore the guy who catches a football with his fakey fake arm stump.) Basically, any “family-friendly” children’s movie from that period is going to be horrifying. (Watcher in the Woods, anyone?)
But is it queer? Nope. It doesn’t celebrate the outsider. It doesn’t challenge gender roles and family dynamics. It has no sense of humor about itself. It’s just a creepy piece of
and spiders. For that, I’d give this a Ross Perot on the gayness scale. Americana