“My first time I was in New York,” says Terrance Zdunich, “I was walking around and I passed the Slaughtered Lamb. I knew nothing about the bar, but I’m a big fan of An American Werewolf in London. I started geeking out over the sign. ‘Oh my God, that’s the Slaughtered Lamb from the movie!’ I didn’t know if it was the original bar where they filmed the scene, or a regular bar. I’m going off on it, and my writing partner–who’s never seen the film–just finally looks at me and says, “It’s probably a gay bar, dude.’ I looked around the street and decided he was probably right, but I still went in and had a drink.”
The cartoonist/actor/screenwriter is telling that story at Times Scare, which–like NYC’s Slaughtered Lamb–isn’t a gay bar, but is certainly themed to horror fans. Zdunich’s on tour with director Darren Lynn Bousman (who helmed Saw II, III, and IV) to take control of their destiny and bring The Devil’s Carnival to the masses. It’s a follow-up to their success with Repo! The Genetic Opera, which began as Zdunich’s stage production, turned into Brousman’s pet film project between Saw films, and was then revived to cult status when the pair toured the rock opera in a nightclub setting.
The Devil’s Carnival is another roadshow, usually billed with some kind of live freak and a short film of Repo! outtakes. It ties in to the film’s bizarre take on the horror anthology concept, telling three strange tales of doomed souls. The tour is also a response to what was feeling like Bousman’s doomed film career. It’s a topic he’s ready to rant about while meeting before the film with fans and press.
“The idea here is to basically be like carnies, ” Bousman explains. ” We’re packing up each night and traveling from town to town. That was always the idea. Let’s go around the world and show it ourselves. The first film I made after Repo! was Mother’s Day, and that’s sat on a shelf for three years. It’s finally coming out in May, and a lot of people already think there must be something wrong with it, but it’s my best film. All I could do was whine about it until I sounded like a little bitch. Now we’ve cut out the middle man. I don’t need a middle man telling me what I can and can’t do. I don’t even want to hear about The Man anymore. The only Man in my way is myself.”
He laughs, because Bousman knows he’s wound himself up again. To be fair, Mother’s Day really does deserve to be discovered as a tight home-invasion thriller. Don’t get put off if Bousman sounds like an offended artist. “I’ll tell you something else about Mother’s Day,” he adds. “It has a scene where Briana gets practically nude. Who isn’t going to like that?”
Everybody’s going to like that, since the Briana in question is Briana Evigan–a veteran starlet who’s livened up horror films like Sorority Row. She’s also tagging along for a stint on this Devil’s Carnival tour, and it’s fair to ask why she’s on the road when she could be at the spa.
“I don’t know,” she laughs. “Why am I touring around with these crazies? I guess it’s just fun to be out being an artist, and to be doing something that’s so imaginative. I don’t really have a preference for genre films. I’m just having a blast. We’re doing the same thing again and again, but there’s never a plan. We’re just out being passionate about what we do.”
As it turns out, Evigan was a little less passionate when she joined the film at the last minute–but those were pretty extreme circumstances.
“The person we had in Briana’s role,” recalls Bousman, “ended up being a complete over-the-top diva. Briana got in right before we started filming. We were doing the songs first. I called her up at 4 in the morning–‘Briana, what are you doing?’ She said, ‘Sleeping,’ and hung up the phone. So I waited until 6 am, called back, said, ‘Brianna, I need you,’ and she drove right over and nailed her song in one take.”
Briana was holding her own with a cast full of musicians, too. The Devil’s Carnival has a cast that includes members of Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch. “We got lucky,” says Bousman. “We just called these people up, and they were, like, ‘Yeah, we’re in.’ No one got paid. We shot the movie in seven days, recorded the music in one day–and all with people we just thought were cool and would maybe want to work with us.”
The tour isn’t a success story yet, though. The big dream at this halfway point is to break even. That’s all that Bousman and Zdunich need to collaborate on what they see as another episode of The Devil’s Carnival. They’re making sacrifices to get there, too.
“We’re staying in some pretty shady places,” laments Bousman. ” I got into this place one night where the lights weren’t working in the room, and the room didn’t have deadbolts–there was a stick to pry against the door–and I just got into the bed, pulled the bedsheets off, put on all the pajamas I had, and tried not to touch anything. All night I kept hearing this crunching sound when I’d roll over. In the morning, I look and see this hiker’s piss pack in the bed. That’s when we made our first trip to Spencer’s Gifts and got a blacklight. I’d bring that out and treat the rooms like a crime scene, looking for DNA. We stopped doing that after a while. It got too disgusting.”