Quick Hit: A mixed bag between terrifically open and lonesome camera shots and some acting that is varied throughout.
Hello and welcome to Oldies Weeks! As many of you may have noticed, I’m always a big fan of some of the older film circuits, in particular older horror. A lot of the films that we’re watching these next weeks are movies that I’ve always had on my “film bucket list” but never scheduled myself to actually sit down and watch. The one for today is Carnival of Souls.
There’s an interesting story surrounding Carnival of Souls. Director Herk Harvey made the film for only $33,000 dollars, and it came out in 1962. It was one of the first “indie” horrors, and it’s made as such – you can tell the low budget quality, because there are very few special effects present here. Instead, we get treated to wide, open camera shots that allow us to truly see the emptiness of the carnival (Harvey was originally a director of educational and industrial films). It’s these shots that are entirely what make the film worth watching, especially when combined with the organ music that populates the soundtrack. It’s haunting and really creepy.
However, it didn’t do very well upon its release. But, as usual with cult classics, it found a way. It existed in the minds of the fans of horror, and was eventually rereleased in 1988, in color. I much prefer the black and white version, because it really sells the creepy factor.
Speaking of creepy, this movie features one of the pushiest guys I’ve ever seen in a movie. John Linden (played by Sidney Berger) is just an epic asshole to main character Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss). There’s a scene in a diner/bar/restaurant (not sure) where he just beats her down emotionally, using all the manipulative tricks that jerks use on women. Mary isn’t exactly absolved of blame – there is a scene where she is consistently flirting with him to get some type of human interaction only to completely give him the cold shoulder, but it’s not right anyway around it. For instance, the first time we see Linden, he’s trying to watch Mary undress. Creep (And not the awesome movie).
The acting is all over the place here, but that’s actually kind of a positive for once. The atmosphere in the film makes for a really surreal experience, which further plays on your feelings of what is and isn’t real. I think one of the most amazing things about this is the beginning of the film. There’s no real start – it just begins and we’re plopped right into the world, with no introduction or anything. Harvey’s choice here is an odd one that starts an odd experience from start to finish.
Would I recommend this to most people? Absolutely not. However, if you want to appreciate some of the older tricks in one of the first independent horror films, and some masterclass camerawork, you can’t go wrong. Carnival of Souls gets a “C+”.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"