Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creepy by association: Carnivals

Labor Day weekend is the time for Golden Onion Days in Payson, Utah, where I grew up. There's a parade, concerts at the park and, of course, a carnival. On a creepy scale of 1 to 10, carnivals are as close to a 10 as you can get.

Maybe carnivals aren't as creepy as they used to be. By my youthful days in the early 1980s, carnival sideshows were gone (which I still feel is an area lacking in my life), but rickety rides and rip-off games seem like they will be around forever.

But if that's not enough, we have plenty of examples in film and literature to reinforce the notion of carnivals as places where creepy shit happens more than other places.

Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" set the tone for scary carnivals that were still appropriate for children. I'm betting if you are around my age and saw this dark Disney flick, you are not only wary of carousels, but probably have issues with spiders, too. The book delves a bit more into the dark side but your 8 to 12 year olds should be able to handle the movie, as long as there is a parent near by. Save the book for your teenagers.

And then there is the cut down before its prime "Carnivale" from HBO. There's been so much fervor from fans of other shows to get them back on the air when network's ended them before they should have. "Carnivale" was canceled after two seasons. Technically, it was canceled before the end of the second season because the creators had to rush the big good versus evil confrontation.

"Carnivale," like "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is set in the 1930s. While the Bradbury version of the '30s is very idyllic, "Carnivale" is all dust bowl, Great Depression reality, even with various magical and supernatural goings-on.

To say that I highly recommend the two seasons of "Carnivale" is an understatement.

There are other less successful examples of carnival mayhem out there. Tobe Hooper's "The Funhouse" comes to mind, as does "Ghoulies II."

So, yeah. Carnivals are creepy. Have fun!

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