Rent Carnival of Souls (1962)

3.5 of 5 from 118 ratings
1h 18min
Rent Carnival of Souls Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
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Having inexplicably survived a car accident that left two friends drowned at the bottom of a river, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) takes up a new job as a church organist in a quiet coastal town. But while she suffered no physical injuries, Mary begins to fear for her sanity. Haunted by nightmarish visions of a ghoulish-looking man, she is drawn to a derelict amusement park where the living dead await her...
, , , Art Ellison, , , , , , Steve Boozer, Pamela Ballard, Larry Sneegas, Cari Conboy, Karen Pyles, , , Mary Ann Harris, , Bill Sollner,
Herk Harvey
John Clifford, Herk Harvey
Classics, Horror, Thrillers
Release Date:
Run Time:
78 minutes
French, None
DVD Regions:
Region 0 (All)
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
Colour and B & W
Release Date:
Run Time:
78 minutes
English LPCM Mono
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.37:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
  • Selected-scene audio commentary featuring director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford New interview with comedian and writer Dana Gould
  • New video essay by film critic David Cairns
  • The Movie That Wouldn't Die!, a documentary on the 1989 reunion of the film's cast and crew
  • The Carnival Tour, a 2000 update on the film's locations
  • Excerpts from movies made by the Centron Corporation, an industrial film company based in Lawrence, Kansas, that once employed Harvey and Clifford
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes, accompanied by Gene Moore's organ score
  • History of the Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City, where key scenes in the film were shot
  • Trailer

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Reviews (4) of Carnival of Souls

Genuinely unnerving - mild spoilers. - Carnival of Souls review by NP

Spoiler Alert

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.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Toccata and Refuge - Carnival of Souls review by CH

Spoiler Alert

“These old houses creak as much as my knees.” So a landlady tells a young and fetching church organist (Candace Hilligoss) who has rented a room in a small town after, apparently, surviving a crowded automobile's plunge from a bridge into a river at the beginning of Carnival of Souls (1962).

Created and directed by Herk Harvey, who appears throughout as a ghostly figure, this film, rendered in effective black and white, does not succumb to gore but is continually unnerving, not least with the man (Sidney Berger) across the landing, a warehouse functionary creepily set upon deflowering her: he arrives at breakfast time with a jug of coffee laced with spirits (as it were): for which she supplies the wonderful term of “germkiller” (all this,after a classic bathtub scene).

Within and without, the film is stark, scantly populated. How many people know of it? How did it come to be made? Little funding was available, and yet it echoes across six decades, partly driven by music which riffs upon that modest church organ to summon the stuff of nightmare.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Fantasy Horror. - Carnival of Souls review by Steve

Spoiler Alert

The best truly independent film ever made. It cost $30000 and was made guerrilla style in the street with hand-held cameras by a five person crew. But the director creates a virtue of this circumstance. Maybe the audio and overdubs aren't professionally recorded, but their strange resonance just makes the film more detached and dreamlike. If Herk Harvey had spent his budget processing the sound to give this effect it would have been money well spent.

Some young adults drive off a bridge and emergency services can't recover the car in the muddy river. Hours later, Mary Henry (Candace Hillgoss) pulls herself from the water. She travels to a new town to work as a church organist, but her reality has distorted. Sometimes, people don't see her, or she doesn't hear them. At dusk she begins to be attracted to a desolate closed down amusement park where grotesque, ghostly apparitions congregate and freakishly waltz.

Carnival of Souls looks like the horrors of German expressionism. Its high contrast b&w photography is artistically composed in natural twilight or the dark. There are distorted close ups and long shots of eerie stillness. Figures appear and move unnaturally. One of the greatest merits is the amazingly gloomy and oppressive organ score. Hilligoss is ethereal as the living ghost who has cheated death. She is the only professional actor in the film.

The only strand of the film which doesn't really work is the uncomfortable attention of a young man towards Mary in the boarding house they share. He is rather too effectively repellant. But it is one of the great horror films. Harvey was an industrial documentary film maker. This was his only cinema release. It feels like a miracle that it came about at all, and much more that it is so great.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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