18 January 2006 | spacemonkey_fg
Nightmarish and ahead of its time
Title: Carnival of Souls (1962)
Director: Herk Harvey
Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt, Tom McGinnis
Review: I love going back in time while watching old horror films. I love to see what scared people in different eras and times. Some people completely dismiss old films just because they are old. I relish the moment when I can find an obscure gem and just indulge in it. Sometimes I find a true classic like when I saw White Zombie for the first time...sometimes I find a dud like when I saw the original 13 Ghosts. This time around in my humble opinion I have found a really creepy and surreal film in director Herk Harveys Carnival of Souls.
The story is about this girl called Mary who gets involved in a car accident in which she emerges completely unharmed. All her friends die, but she is left in a perfect state. She decides to move to a new town to start anew. She takes a job in a church as a "profesional organist" and moves into a new place. Unfortunately she begins seeing a ghostly apparition and she is strangely attracted by the spooky abandoned amusement park near her new home. What horrors await for her inside? And why is she seeing these visions? This film has a few faults in various departments. For one, I thought that the editing in the movie really sucked. You'll notice little skips here and there in the continuity of the film, it doesn't flow fluidly. It hits a few speed bumps along the way. The sound was also a bit atrocious at times, I could barely make out what they were saying in certain parts at the beginning of the film. But somehow...in spite of all of its flaws this movie had me reeled in from the get go.
The character of Mary is likable so I felt like sticking with her and seeing where she was going to end up. I liked her attitude about her job in church just "being a job". She didn't take religion seriously and I was like "whoa, there's a girl with a head on her shoulders!". Anyhows, I kept watching and things began to get a whole lot more interesting as the film progressed. Its one of those films that has a bad start (mainly because of its technical faults) but as it goes on it gets really good.
I loved the strange location they used to shoot the old abandoned amusement park. Apparently there really was an abandoned amusement park in the middle of nowhere and they shot part of the movie there! The director was wise to take advantage of this location and shoot the hell out of it. It has a real isolated feel to it. You can tell, it really is in the middle of nowheresville. So that added to the feeling of creepyness and isolation. Specially seeing Mary going into it all by herself.
Once the spooks join in on the story, well things get really nightmarish. And heres where the film won its classic status for me. The images that the film conjures up, specially towards the last half of the film are some of the most surreal, nightmarish I have seen on screen. And to top things off, its all in black and white which adds another layer of spookiness to the whole affair.
As I watched it I thought to myself, man, this director was really ahead of his time! And he was! He managed to make some truly haunting imagery all the way back in 1962! Sadly because the critics shot this movie down, he never made more feature films. He did manage to make a lot of educational documentaries. But no more movies.
So if you are up from some truly spooky surreal images that feel like something that came out of your worst nightmares, go rent this baby. Just remember it has a few imperfections here and there, but once you get through the rough stuff, you'll get to what really matters. Those spooky ass visions filled with ghosts and ghouls! Sweet Dreams! Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5