More titters than scares
- Carnival of Souls review by Kurtz
A relic of the drive-in cinema age, released in 1962 by a director who had up until then majored in health education films, “Carnival of Souls” is interesting nowadays only as an indicator of how far film-making and acting has come since the early sixties, and as a blueprint for the “caught-between -two –worlds” type thrillers like “Jacob’s Ladder”and “The Sixth Sense”.Other aspects have dated horribly, the stilted acting and the leaden dialogue, particularly in the less “intense” scenes, proving particularly hard to forgive. When things start to unravel for our heroine, there is admiiedly a vaguely spooky feel and the “Carnival” of the title is not somewhere you’d like to wander at night, but eye-rolling close-ups of lead actress Candace Hilligoss have you wriggling more in embarrassment than fear.
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Genuinely unnerving - mild spoilers.
- Carnival of Souls review by NP
This is a modestly budgeted, black and white film directed, produced, written by and starring Herk Harvey. Often, when an entire production is placed in the hands of one person, the results can be questionable, with no-one available to advise the auteur that his ambition may need fine tuning. Happily, this is far from the case here. 'Carnival of Souls' has gained a huge cult following over the years, and quite rightly: it is excellent.
Beginning very much in the style of Hitchcock's 'Psycho (1960)', the narrative follows Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) as she stumbles from the sea after a car accident in which she appears to be the sole survivor. Trials and tribulations inevitably follow as she finds it difficult to continue her normal life, and her challenges in forming any emotional attachment - although having said that, her pursuer, greasy, arrogant John Linden (Sidney Berger) is an unpleasant, bullying character who doesn't disguise the fact he only wants to have sex with her. She sees figures, spectres, faces - the main ghoul is played, uncredited, by Harvey. His is the face most people remember from the film: pale, blackened eyed and leering, his is a truly unnerving presence.
The direction is first rate. Not only is a seaside town given a genuinely unnerving atmosphere, but the finale, filled with stuttering, staggering undead figures emerging from the abandoned carnival stays in the mind long after the credits have rolled.
If you have an interest in horror, you owe it to yourself to see this.
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