So far, I think the Terrance Zdunich/Darren Lynn Bousman writer/director combo is just great with its musicals. I adore Repo! The Genetic Opera and I really liked the original Devil's Carnival in spite of its faults. So I was fired up about this film like you wouldn't believe. However, the problem I had with that is that I originally saw The Devil's Carnival through a friend and I had tried on and off ever since to try and find the original and had no luck, but with both movies just recently being sold on iTunes I bought both movies without even thinking twice. And...yeah, this is a much better movie than its predecessor.
Okay, in the original film it ended with The Devil deciding to start a war with God after he found out he could forgive everyone of their sins "cheaply" and send them to Heaven. In the first film it primarily focused on Hell. This film decides to focus on Heaven and is a pseudo prequel to the first and focuses on the character origins of Painted Doll (aka Emilie Autumn). One of the problems this movie has is that I really wish it tried to tell the origins of a few of the demonic characters and how they fell...for example, imagine hearing the origins of The Twin or Hobo Clown. At double the running time of the original film, it had every chance to make that happen. As is, however...it just feels like Bousman showcasing Emilie's talent and saying "Yes, I CAN make a credible musical with her in it" in preparation for her own musical "The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls". I'm ALREADY psyched up for that. This movie doesn't need that angle to get me excited.
So the plot is that, in preparation for the upcoming war, The Devil anticipates that Heaven would send a character called The Agent (Adam Pascal) to try and sort everything out. So he reads a story to a cloaked figure about what happened to June (Painted Doll) and how she was kicked out of Heaven. It turns out Heaven is a 1984/Bioshock world where everything looks like it came out of the 40's and a character called the Watchword (Barry Bostwick) spies on everyone for sins that could send them to Hell and each inhabitant has to assume a job with actual higher ups in Heaven comparing it to Noah's Ark.
One thing that I SHOULD warn people about though is remember how I said that the last film had ended with The Devil preparing to start a war with God...the farthest we ever get in this film is the first attack. I don't mind that as we had to at least see Heaven first but, for those that want the epic war of the afterlife...you'll just have to wait for Devil's Carnival 3 for that.
There is one thing in this film that actually helps one of the biggest problems in the previous film - in the last film a girl called Tamra was sent to Hell for trusting too much...seriously. This film helps that out by saying that the God in this world is a knifing prick with double agendas and manipulating people into feeling worse about themselves, even if they've done nothing wrong (he asks The Agent to watch over June and seduce her and there's no other way to see it other than he KNEW that she'd take that forbidden book - the one with the apple on the cover...yes, seriously - and be sent to Hell)...so, this goes without saying, if your religiously catholic, don't watch this because, I guarantee you, you WILL get offended. Me personally...I think its an interesting take on religion, to tell you the truth. I'm neither one way or another when it comes to religious beliefs but making God out like that, while it has been done before, its quite interesting.
So...considering this is a musical, how are the songs? Again, this has been improved since the last film. The song "Hoof And Lap" has been stuck in my head for days! "Fair Game" is also a much better song for The Twin as a character to be showcased in than "Beautiful Stranger" (although honestly I like both songs) and as far as I can remember, the only really bad song in this movie is "The Watchdogs Hour" (sorry Barry...you can't sing anymore!) whereas the original had at the very least two - "The Devil's Carnival" (which is briefly in Hoof And Lap and works a lot better there) and "Kiss The Girls" which appears in a sequence thats entirely pointless and for a 55 minute film...thats impressive. Also, considering we get a lot more songs from both Heaven and Hell, they both have their own distinct sounds which is something I admire as it would be easy to make them both sound alike in each and every way.
Overall, this movie is definitely not for everyone and I may be bias in saying this but...I really liked it and I'd love to see more from this film series. If your interested in a musical that does everything it can to try and push boundaries in how they're made, and you happen to be a fan of Repo!, I'd suggest checking it out but if none of the above sounds like your cup of tea...I'd seriously suggest giving the entire series a miss.