Ray Bradbury is a genius. I’ve read several of his books, and while I appreciate his stories more than I actively enjoy them, he does know his way around some killer concepts: the idea of a dark carnival is quite bad-ass, indeed.
I have not read the story this movie was based on, but I used to catch it on the Disney Channel every year around Halloween time. They don’t play it so much, mostly to give extra time to wacky sitcoms. But also because HOLY CRAP this movie is terrifying. The spider lady, the aging backwards, the showdown in the library, the amputee footballer, the horrible parades… Watching this movie is like watching a perfect old-timey town slowly being taken over by something dark and horrible. The story doesn’t always fit together, and plot points crash into each other without the slightest bit of connective tissue (…uh, something, something lightning rods…). But coherence is overrated, and this film succeeds in being creepy as hell. Check it out the next time it’s on TV. You’d be surprised what they could get away with in a kid’s movie. There isn’t anything overtly gory or gross, but the tone is creepy and curdled and so, so good.