Friday, February 28, 2014

Carnival of Souls (1962)

*** (out of four stars)
Reviewed by Rose Welch

Carnival of Souls is a B horror movie directed by Herk Harvey.  It was Harvey’s first and only feature length film.  The inspiration for this film came to him while he was driving past the abandoned Saltair pavilion in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He enlisted coworker and friend John Clifford to write the screenplay and he casted all local actors.  It was filmed over a three week period in Lawrence, KY and Salt Lake City, UT for around $33,000. 
Although this film wasn’t very popular when it was originally released in 1962, it has since become a cult classic.  Candace Hilligoss plays Mary Henry.  The movie opens with Mary and her friends drag racing with another car.  The car goes off a bridge and Mary emerges from the water three hours later with no recollection of how she escaped from the car and no real concern for her friends.  She seems to be very unemotional and completely detached from the whole incident.  She soon leaves her home in Kentucky to take a job as a church organist in Utah.  She’s plagued by bizarre occurrences along her journey.  She finds nothing but church music on the radio, a strange abandoned pavilion that seems to beckon to her, and visions of a ghoulish man, played by Herk Harvey.  She arrives at her destination and rents a room from an elderly woman named Mrs. Thomas, played by Frances Feist.  Things only continue to get worse for Mary in Utah.  She continues the see the man although no one else can.  She also experiences periods where she’s invisible to everyone else.  She loses her job at the church, and after speaking with a Dr., she feels the answers to her problems can be found at the abandoned pavilion.  She goes and finds other “ghouls” along with the man.  When she sees herself dancing with him, she runs into the water and disappears.  The next time we see her is when the police are pulling the car out of the river with her and her two friends dead inside.
Though it has spawned two unsuccessful remakes, the original has stood the test of time, and continues to scare fans 52 years after its initial release.  The whole movie plays out like an episode of the Twilight Zone. There is no blood and gore, and very few special effects.  The film relies solely on atmosphere and acting ability.  The ominous score helps to increase the suspense.  As far as classic horror goes, this is a great film that will have you turning the lights on before you enter a room. 

Starring:  Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, and Sidney Berger

Written by John Clifford

Directed by Herk Harvey

78 mins


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