Horror Film Director


Posted on April 1st, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, film, general, inspiration, news, THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL. 15 comments

For almost two months now… since the reveal of the first trailer, fans, critics, and friends have emailed me, and facebooked me…

“What is The Devil’s Carnival?” I’m confused… is it a movie? Is it a play? Is it concert?

Yes… Well… No… actually, it’s none of those things…

Seeing as our tour kicks off this Thursday in Los Angeles, I felt it timely to actually address this question, and hopefully shed some light on exactly WHAT the Devil’s Carnival is… and why.

The word carnival… in essence means: An exciting or riotous mixture of something…

Exciting and riotous… two words that I think pretty well describe our Carnival… But the reality is… The Devil’s Carnival is not anything clearly definable… More so than anything, our carnival is an idea…

Just a Carnie with an Idea:

I might be the luckiest guy I know…

At 26 years old I directed a movie that opened at number 1… at 27 I directed another movie that opened again at number 1… at 28, once again…  Now, this has little to do with talent, and a lot to do with LUCK.  I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right project…

But, where does one go from there? How possibly could I trump the experience I had in my twenties during my tenor with the SAW films?

Nothing, I repeat nothing is cooler than driving down SUNSET BLVD and seeing a SAW BILLBOARD… Bus stops ads, commercials on TV, and even late night talk show hosts talking about this ‘thing…’ this experience that I had some small hand in.

I look back on my life, and relate my experiences with SAW to an amusement park and riding the BEST roller coaster first… At the time, it sounds like a great idea… but once you have tackled the biggest, baddest roller coaster first, everything else pales in comparison…

The best part about SAW was I literally had to do nothing outside of show up to set, and direct… There’s no drama, no pulling out of the hair… SAW was a well oiled machine.


There was a moment, before I became a director, where I was sitting with a producer that I worked for. I was his assistant… he was an amazing man, and one I learned a great deal from… This producer shall remain nameless… But I promise you, you know his movies, and his work…

One afternoon, I showed up to his house to bring him something, and he was sitting at his kitchen table. He was not his jovial, fun self… In fact, he was the most depressed I had seen him. I asked him what was wrong. This producer, who I will refer to as Producer X… Looked up to me, a sad disillusioned look in his eye.

“Darren… if you learn anything from me… If you only take one lesson away from your time working with me, it is this…

Everyone in Hollywood is fighting, and climbing to get to the top of the mountain… Everyone wants to stand on the top of the mountain and look around and say I DID IT… I got here! I made it… some spend their entire lives climbing this mountain… some get there by luck… others by talent. But everyone tries to climb it. But be careful… Because there is only one place to go once you reach the top… straight down…”

Straight down…

You can’t help but fall…

At the time I didn’t realize the importance of his parable… I got what he was saying, but it didn’t connect with me at the time. I was a PA… an assistant… My job was to get coffee… drive him around in his expensive car… My job was to pick up his dry cleaning.  My job was to DUB videotapes.

Now, some years later I look back on his words and consider them the most poignant and important that I have ever heard in my time in Hollywood.

I went from my films being released in 3,000 screens, to my last being released in just 10. My current film Mother’s Day comes out in only 3 markets… No bus stop ads, no tv commercials, no press days or red carpet premiere.

My dear readers, I came to Hollywood and I rode the BEST roller coaster first. Everything else was sure to fail in comparison.

SAW II, III, IV 3,000 screens


11 – 11 – 11 10 screens

MOTHER’S DAY 3 screens

Down… down… down… I fall…

Depression is a hell of a thing. It’s crippling… But for me, what was worse than the depression of watching my art fall from the grace it once called home, was the complacent position I took as I watched myself fall…

Over the course of a few years I went from being confident, to not only second guessing everything I did… But believing the stories I was being sold…

“We can’t market this movie…”
“There isn’t an audience for these types of films”
“too dark…”
“…not dark enough”

I remember opening up one of my favorite website recently and reading the headline – “Bousman’s fall from grace…” It was clever title for a film review on a religious film I wrote and directed called 11-11-11.

And I got it… 11-11-11 might not have been my finest hour as a director. But as I read the review the sickness I felt in my stomach also grew… Just five years ago I was directing movies that had an ARMY of people supporting them, marketing them, and nurturing them… Now, I had a film that opened and closed in the same weekend… and as filmmaker I was powerless….

And what was worst was I felt lost… I was relying on people, a system to release these film, nurture them… promote them… Something… Anything…

MOTHER’S DAY, in my opinion, is one of my best films. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out. From the cast, to the script, to the editing… It just clicked for me. When I turned in my director’s cut, I couldn’t have been prouder. We tested the movie… It tested AWESOME, and I was SURE this was going to be the movie that put me back on the map… Put me BACK in the place I was when I fell from the SAW royalty…

Right? WRONG…

MOTHER’S DAY has sat on a shelf for two years while it ping-ponged distributors… And there I sat. Powerless to stop it. Powerless to change the fate of a movie I worked SO hard to make. The fate of this film, rested on the shoulders of a legion of other people… And I had to sit back, and wait, while ‘they’ decided what its outcome would be.

And then there’s REPO! You all know the story behind that, so I won’t bore you with the details. But TEN YEARS creating something, and in one moment… One decision, the fate of its release is decided upon… and the rest is history….

So how does this relate to THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL?

The Devil’s Carnival is our answer to what I feel is wrong with the system… The Devil’s Carnival is our response to the machine that so many filmmakers and artists find themselves tirelessly navigating. The Devil’s Carnival is about putting your fate in your hands, and not relying on the machine to tell you what will work, and what wont…

I love making movies… I love telling stories… I love creating things that have the potential to live long past I die… What I don’t love is the phone call “Hey Darren, sorry, the marketing department can’t figure out how to sell this movie to mainstream America…”

If you have read any of my other blogs, you will note that I understand the necessity and importance of the “business” side of the movie BUSINESS…

If a movie doesn’t have an audience it can not make money… If it can not make money, it is a failure. No matter HOW great your film is, if no one sees it has failed as a ‘business’ venture.

I seem to thrive in that GREY area. I am drawn to films and music that fall outside of the box…

I am drawn to things that are different… things that are not always mainstream… Surely there is a way to capitalize on others with like minded interests?  Surely there is a way to monetize the strange and bizarre.

However, as much as I truly love Hollywood, I hate the fact that I spend years creating something only to be told by a group of people – “sorry, we can’t really find a home for your movie…”

What this does, is it cripples originality. Instead of artists creating out of the box, unique pieces of art, we copy other things that are familiar, and safe… Why? Because we know that there is a formula that works… and if the formula works, why change it?

I just bought a house. Buying this house has made me question a lot of things… I need to work to continue to pay the mortgage… If I don’t pay the mortgage I lose the house… The rational side of me thinks, I should start reading the stack of remake scripts sitting on my desk.

The rational side of me thinks… Dammit, why did I just turn down this sequel? Those are safe bets, right?

Then the artist in me rears its ugly head… FUCK THAT… do what you love. Do what inspires you… Do what you want, surely there are others like you who will embrace the insanity that drives you…

And so THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL was born.

An experiment. A test… a movement….

Let’s put all our eggs in this one basket. Let’s go for broke. Let’s do something completely out of the box and different, and strange, and beautiful, crazy, EXCITING and RIOTOUS…

Let’s do what moves us. What makes us happy, what WE want to see.

Terrance and I met and made a list of all the things we wanted to see in a movie. In a musical… in a work of art… We decided not to care was this commercial, or was this safe, or would this appeal to the masses… we just wrote and filmed something we LOVED, and moved us… for once forgetting about the ‘game’… or the mountain in which we could fall further from…

We set off on a journey to do this without permission, without seeking approval… PUNK ROCK filmmaking… Hopefully people would get it, and join us on our journey… Maybe they wouldn’t.

All we knew is we believed in it, and hopefully others would to. Hopefully there were others out there that had the same attitude, that shared the same feelings, that wanted to do something outside the system that makes the decisions on what gets seen, and what doesn’t.

We just didn’t care. This was for us… our Repo fans… this would not be about the business… This would be about the art.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculous

Other artists signed on to the project. Actors we could NEVER afford. Musicians we never thought we could get…

Crew members who would make more NOT doing our project than by doing it began signing up…

Our carnival began to grow. What was supposed to be a ‘short film’ turned into a production. A crew of 20 became a crew of 100. A cast of 5 became a cast of 30… A 25 minute short film became an hour… five songs became twelve.

When we rolled cameras the first day, we knew this was NOT just a short film. This was something more important. This was a statement.

We were able to create something outside of the mold. Outside the system… With the blood, sweat and tears of like minded artists who were fueled by passion, not dollar signs.

We didn’t have a company building our merch… We did it. We didn’t have a label producing our album… we did it. We were making a movie with friends, and family. For a moment in time it was only about the art… and nothing else.

On Thursday the fruits of our labor will finally be revealed… Some will love it, others will despise it. There will be those who dress up in costumes and become part of the experience, and there will be those that turn their noses up at it calling it self indulgent crap. I welcome both responses…

In my 10 years of making movies, this is the single most rewarding experience as a filmmaker… As everything you see, from the posters, to the CDs, to the trailers, to the movie itself came from friends who dedicated their time and talent because they believed in what we were trying to do with THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL.

There is no puppet master pulling the strings on this one. No studio who will take out bus stop ads, or billboards on Sunset Blvd.  Sadly, the team who promoted Saw will not be promoting this, we have someone better… We have people who live and breath outside of the ‘norm’… The majority of our publicity comes from the fans… as they are too part of the Carnival… They do helped create this, and fuel this.

This began with a group of people wanting to do something different, and be completely independent in our decisions, and that is what you will view at The Devil’s Carnival.

You will hear the music that was recorded in Joe Bishara’s home studio. You will view sets that were built and painted in Derrick Hinman’s backyard and costumes that were designed in Dawn Ritz’s apartment. You will watch a movie that was edited in my garage with visual effects from a guy working out of his studio apartment whom I met on Craigslist.. You will view these events in theaters that Spooky Dan personally booked, and we will travel there via a van that our producer Sean E secured after calling all his friends for favors. We will stay in motels that my beautiful wife found and obtained. You will see merch that was created by close friend Sean Scoffield, that will then be sold to you by our script supervisor who is joining us on the road tour… This movie is a family affair.  A bunch of friends doing something that moves us… compels us…

The Devil’s Carnival is a labor of love… Not just my labor of love, but also everybody who worked on it.

The Devil’s Carnival is an escape. A reason to leave your houses, and apartments, and see something different, something unique, something out of the box.

The Devil’s Carnival is a live show, one you are all very much apart of… Not just because of the opening acts, but because YOU give it life by your interactions.

The Devil’s Carnival is a movie, one that just four months ago,was an idea. Something that we hoped we could pull off with no money and little resources.

More so than anything The Devil’s Carnival is proof… Proof that any artist, filmmaker, musician, playwright can change their fate… Just because someone passes on your art – does not invalidate your work… Just because no one wants to buy your painting, your script, your movie, does not mean no one wants to see it…

5 years ago we were told there was no audience for Repo! Our response: get in the fucking van and find an audience…

When TZ and I first starting pitching the idea for The Devil’s Carnival we were once again laughed at, and told find something more commercial… Our response…. Fuck you, we will just go make it ourselves… And make it we did… Now we are bringing it to you!

THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL will not change the system, nor are we trying to reinvent it… But together, with all of your help we can navigate around it… and we will…


See you at the Carnival….


15 thoughts on “What is THE DEVILS CARNIVAL?

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog because you’ve seen so many sides of the process and really tell it how it is. I’ve been watching The Devil’s Carnival as a project since the day the website went live, and I’ve gone from a random person who was curious about it, to getting involved and being the chat moderator early on, to being the forum moderator as well, to only being the forum mod, and as I watch each new person join in and discover it for themselves and get excited, I get more excited myself. Words really can not describe how amazed I am at exactly how this has grown and how the community has been such a big part as well. I can’t wait to see it because, although I know I don’t know a lot of things about the final product, I do know ONE THING, and that is that it will be FANTASTIC.

  2. This is so freaking awe inspiring. I am so happy We (my Uncle, Brother and I) Are going to be able to meet the people who helped this come alive. I’m so exited to see things come alive. I’ve been inspired to actually do something that I want not some cookie cutter, everyday, thing. I want to create art and I want to become something that I Can be proud of, and now I’m going on and on. I shall end this with Thank You to all who is bringing TDC to life.

  3. I am a very individualistic person. I believe in expressing oneself the way one chooses to express. Fuck society’s rules and demands! That is why I love Repo. That is why I’m thrilled to see The Devil’s Carnival. It is the embodiment of an individual. A true-to-yourself art. Bravo, Darren!!!

  4. Well, what can i say? First of all, believe or not, im from Argentina, and i would like to say that there should be more people like you on the “world of movies”. I personally love your films, and not only the SAW saga,MOTHERS DAY is a GREAT MOVIE, a great remake, and an excellent tribute to the original one. And REPO! is, in one word… FASCINATING!
    Like i said, im from Argentina, and all of your films, except for the SAW ones, weren´t projected on any cinemas, and aren´t even known among the people. I knew from them because im a great fan of your work and have been following it since your beginnings. So movies like MOTHERS DAY and REPO! i had to do a lot of work and investigation through a lot of places and websites to finally manage to get a copy on DVD. It´s a shame that non of your work could get to cinemas here. I would have done ANYTHING to experience REPO! and now DEVILS CARNIVAL on a cinema.
    But im proud of you and your guts to do the movies that you want with no prejudice.
    So… here i stay, awaiting for THE DEVILS CARNIVAL, sadly on DVD. And for your futures, and surely excellents, films.
    – Leandro

    PS: Sorry for my English.

  5. When I heard that you and Terrence were making another, shall I say, “creation” after Repo! I was utterly excited. Your films inspire me so much, not only because of the absolute originality but also because of the blatant talent and passion they exemplify. As an artist, I also know what it feels like to have your work rejected and you and your cast and crew pushing forward like this in a stagnant industry only inspires me more. So I guess, thank you for not letting the system hold you back. I and my buddies have our Ringmaster tickets for the carnival and we are realty excited to experience what you all have created!

  6. Wow Darren,

    After reading this blog, I KNOW I would love to work with you! You are such a huge inspiration to me. All my life, I have hated “the system” that I see in every workplace I’ve been a part of. It reminds me of a feudal fiefdom, where the guy in power lords over all the little serfs who blindly do his bidding for a mere pittance.

    And the same is true in the film industry. You have the powerful big studio executives with the money to produce & market your work but they will only do so if they think there is a market for your film. The same goes for Indy film. You make your film using private investors but need to play the market game all over again with the big studios to get the film shown.

    I think what you are doing is ingenious & I hope it leads to many more to come! I’d love to work with you all! Seriously, if you want an extra hand on your crew, I’m up for just about anything you can throw at me!

    This film’s creation reminds me alot of the story of Suck: the Movie, another little Indy film that had famous people coming out of the woodwork to be a part of it. Alice Cooper & Iggy Pop are just two that come to mind. But they never thought of taking their show on the road!

    I SOOOOOO want to go see this! You guys tried to get a booking in my local area, in Rapid City, but that was a no go. Now I’m trying to conceive of a way (also without money) of getting VIP tickets & transportation to Salt Lake City for that May 7th show. I’d pick Denver, which is closer, but that is on the last day of our local Black Hills Film Festival. Would love to have had you guys here for that! You would have blown our local artist’s socks off!

    Having been a fan of the weird most of my life (and being one of them), this play/film/thing is right up my alley! I first learned about you & TZ last year when Repo! was shown at the BHFF. My life has not been the same since…

    I’d love to be further warped by The Devil’s Carnival. I’ve even entered two of the three contests, in hopes of at least winning tickets to go (would still need to find transport) but there are many other talented entries so who knows…

    Anyway, seriously, if you want another slave for your next project, I’d work for peanuts & a cot. I don’t have any work experience but my “home experience” includes digital editing, graphic design, photography, sound editing & even singing. And I’m really good at fetching coffee, even if I don’t drink it. If you have seen my entries, you have seen a small sample of my abilties. My resume can be found on my website linked to my name here.

    Good luck on the TDC road tour! Hope to see you at one of the shows! (knocks on wood)

    – Genny / Astartiel

  7. PS – You will not find a more committed & able-to-troubleshoot-anything computer tech freak for all your networking, hardware & software needs & desires within a hundred miles (or more) of me. Not even going to try to be modest about this ability… Just a little shameless self-promotion. (Can you tell I need a job? 😉

  8. Thankfully someone still is out there making ORIGINAL movies. Not rehashed pieces of garbage left over from an 80’s flick.

    My wife and I got together watching Repo, it’s a special movie to us. This movie looks like it’ll be just as good, and perhaps even better. Look forward to more of your work.

  9. In my eyes, you’re still the best Bousman… Love your movies… Can’t wait to see The Devil’s Carnival when it arrives in the town where I was born and raised – Hell Pisshole LOL… I mean El Paso, TX… I’m hoping to borrow 2 seconds of your time, to simply say “hello” … Count me in as a Carnival VIP when the show opens in ELP the night of April 11th… Thanks for the many hours of great chills and entertainment! – Michael

  10. I have to say that I am beyond excited to be supporting you on your journey. I will be there in Charlotte, Nc to cheer you all on. I am a huge fan of Repo. I heard of Repo by word of mouth and I continue to tell others about it. Now a few friends and I are going to make the trek to see this in person. I am blessed to be able to see artist work who are putting their heart into it! Till I see you then. <3

  11. To me, this is a Masterpiece.
    Your hearts have built it,
    And NOBODY can knock it down!
    I wish I could fly over to support you!
    Can I do anything to help from here?
    Best of Luck with the Tour!
    Come to Europe, please? 🙂

  12. I found out about Repo by accident because I saw a video on youtube that used “Let the Monster Rise”. But after that I got to know more and more about Repo and the more I knew, the more I wanted to watch it and now it is one of my favourite movies. Its music has followed me through different situations in life and it still does. It is not only totally amazing it is also very inspiring.
    Now that I have heard about the Devils Carnival (TDC) a few months ago I am more than excited. The trailer and the few glimpses I could get of “The Devil’s Carnival” makes it seem that this is something I’ve been waiting for. Something unique that tells a story, has a style that I am missing in so many movies.
    However, I just want to let you know that there are also people in Germany loving and – if you can put it like this – supporting your work. And I mean something like Repo and now the Devil’s Carnival.
    Thanks for sharing your work and now also your thoughts.

  13. This was one of the most inspirational things I have read in a long time. Honestly, this was great. I’m an artist (I paint, mostly – and mostly horror-related stuff) and I make a line of super odd and disturbing plush toys called The Quiet Room Bears, and recently I’ve been going through some hard times, including getting laid off from my job. I have a bit of a cushion before I have to go & get another shitty job, but there isn’t any other time in my life where I don’t feel as amazing and true to myself as when I’m creating art. And honestly, lately I’ve really been doubting that creativity won’t win out in the end, but reading this has actually helped me push a little harder to do what I believe in. Art and creativity is so commonly overlooked & it’s disheartening sometimes. But I still believe in it, and you’ve proved that if you believe in something it can be accomplished. I’m lucky to have gotten some attention & a small following for some of my art, and now I feel like I really can accomplish what I want to do. Thanks for the inspiration, it’s really appreciated, especially for me at this time.
    If anyone is super bored (and I don’t know if I’m allowed to pimp myself out here, I just love getting a chance to share art – especially horror art with fans and people I’M a fan of), check them out here facebook.com/quietroombears
    Thanks again, and never stop making art. That goes to everyone.
    Lee Howard.

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