Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Carnival of Souls (1962) review


     Carnival of Souls provides loads of creepy imagery, a convincing lead, and a very curious plot. The film hasn't aged well compared to modern standards, but it still remains one of the creepiest and most intensely suspenseful horror films of its time.

PLOT: Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) and her friends are foolishly driving around one day when they get in a fatal car accident, of which she is the sole survivor. Soon after, Mary decides to move away and start anew with aspirations to become a church organist. However, a threatening, ghostly man (Herk Harvey) begins stalking her, popping up out of nowhere and terrifying her daily. Mary also starts having these random moments where she's completely disconnected from reality- no one can hear her and she can hear no one else. As Mary's life begins to go downhill, she grows more frightened of the mysterious man and more drawn to the town's abandoned carnival in hopes of finding an solution. The plot is very illogical and unexplained in some aspects, but for the most part comes together quite nicely and shockingly at the film's final twist. The sudden realization for the most part ties things together, spelling out certain things plainly and leaving the rest up to interpretation. Personally, I love films that leave some situations up to interpretation. However, a lot of viewers bash films for doing this in excess. In reality, when a little thought is put into it and everything is put into perspective, the plot is a brilliant and chilling concept, probably even more terrifying in its time.

ACTING: The performances in this film are pretty excellent, especially for their time. Herk Harvey plays a creepy role as the mysterious man though he doesn't have much of a vocal role. Other great performances come from Frances Feist as the gentle landlady Mrs. Thomas, Sidney Berger as the stereotypical drunk John Linden, and Stan Levitt as the compassionate Dr. Samuels. The show-stealing performance, however, comes from the lead, Candace Hilligoss as Mary Henry. She puts on a show so convincing and so horrifying that it even feels real. The viewer starts to feel more and more sorry for her as her life starts to plummet downhill, portrayed perfectly by Hilligoss. One can truly feel the depression and torment that overtakes her as the demons torment her and start ruining her personal life. She plays the part that well.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The musical score in Carnival of Souls is very creepy and atmospheric. It sets the mood for the ever-present suspense and creepy scares. It may seem just as spooky as the next horror movie in the decade, but either way it set the mood just as well as was necessary.

OTHER CONTENT: Carnival of Souls is a very in-depth horror film for the 1960s that provides a lot to talk about at heart. The suspense is very well laid out throughout the film, always building and only giving in for brief, freaky scares usually involving the mysterious man or those who look similar. The makers of this film knew how to handle suspense. On the more obvious side of the fear spectrum, long-lasting creepy imagery is presented to break the loud, suspenseful silence. The creepy scares and imagery seen throughout this film may be fairly simplistic, but they succeed in creating a creepy, eerie, and downright uncomfortable atmosphere. They leave a long-lasting impression in the viewer's mind comparable to modern day haunts like the images presented in The Grudge. What also adds a lasting impression is the many in-depth theories about the plot. As the film concludes, (SPOILER), the audience sees obviously that Mary didn't survive the car crash. However, what could this mean? When you think about it, she couldn't have just been wandering the earth as a ghost being tormented by demons because people still were talking to her. This spawns many theories, like the possibility of Mary being stuck in a sort of purgatory-like state and that the other ghosts are trying to make her cross over. However, this spawns even more theories like what each character Mary spoke to represented and if there is really a more in-depth and metaphorical meaning to the film as a whole. This may have been from the early age of horror film, but it still makes the viewer think and leaves one hell of a lasting impression.

     If one were expecting to watch Carnival of Souls and expect a fun, spooky, or cheesy horror classic meant to entertain, one would be horrifyingly surprised. The film contains an intense amount of depth, suspense, and creepy imagery as well as a master performance by its lead. One doesn't just get a scare here but a memorable and thought-provoking impression rather surprising in comparison to other horror film of the time.

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