Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Carnival of Souls (1962)

Directed by Herk Harvey, Carnival of Souls centers around a young woman named Mary Henry (Clandice Hilligoss), the sole survivor of a tragic car crash who moves to a small town in Utah to work as an organist in a local church. When she arrives, she finds herself fascinated with an abandoned pavilion and haunted by ghoulish figure. Is Mary just imagining things, or is there more to the situation than meets the eye?

While the film didn't receive widespread attention when it was original released as a B-movie, Carnival of Souls is considered a cult classic by many today and has been cited as an important influence on the films of David Lynch and George A. Romero. After watching the film, I can understand why it has obtained that cult status.

Unlike other horror films that focus on creepy special effects (which isn't a bad thing at all), Carnival of Souls uses atmosphere and music to create a rather effective mood of unease and foreboding. In many ways, Carnival of Souls is like a feature-length episode of the Twilight Zone, taking a rather normal character who has experience a tragic event and having her deal with a number of strange and surreal situations that lead to a nice, little twist at the end .

Due to the film's low budget, almost all the actors are amateurs who had worked with Harvey on his previous educational films. However, none of the actors give particularly bad performances. On the contrary, most of the actors and actresses due a decent job with the material they have been given, with Hilligoss and Sidney Berger as Mary's neighbor John Linden being the stand-out performances in my opinion.

Carnival of Souls only real weakness is that its concept isn't strong enough to sustain an hour and twenty minutes of screen time. Now, it would fit perfectly in the old 30 minute format of the first few seasons of the Twilight Zone. However, the feature-length run-time causes the film to be padded with a few scenes that are rather dull and don't really add all that much to the final product.

However, Carnival of Souls is still worth a watch. While it feels like a Twilight Zone episode that ran a little too long, it would still be a good episode. The concept and twist are interesting and the creepy atmosphere and music are great.

Verdict: See it if you enjoy films that focus more on atmosphere and mood than special effects. Skip it if you dislike movies that are rather slow-paced and surreal.

No comments:

Post a Comment