Wednesday, October 4, 2023

October Horror Movie Challenge: Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls (1962)
 Carnival of Souls from 1962 was always "that one movie" for me. That one I had heard so much about. That one I had always wanted to see. I finally got around to it sometime after 2000 when  The Criterion Collection released their 2-DVD set of it. I have to say that it lived up to all the hype for me. Rewatching it again 20+ years after that, it still holds up.

It is also a perfect move for tonight's "What a Twist" theme.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Mary (Candace Hilligoss, who is haunting in this) is in a street race with her two friends against two other guys. The guys, in an attempt to win, nudge the girl's car and they fly off a bridge into a muddy river somewhere in Kansas.  Hours later Mary walks out of the river with no memory on how she survived.

We followed up with Mary as she moved to Salt Lake City to get a job as an organist in a church. She has some minor, rather mundane adventures, except she keeps seeing this ghoulish-looking man everywhere she goes. Mary thinks she is going crazy and no one else can see the man. She is also oddly interested in a run-down old building that used to house a carnival, a building she has been told never to enter.

Finally, she can't help herself and she goes to the building where she sees not just the Ghoulish man and other ghouls, but a ghoulish version of herself dancing with the man. She runs off and is chased by the ghouls.

What a Twist: The last scenes are back in Kansas where the car is finally pulled up from the river. Inside are all three girls, including Mary, dead.

The movie is slow, but it is a slow burn creeping horror. Sure there is plenty of evidence that Mary is dead from the start, but much like "Sixth Sense" you don't notice it until the end. Indeed this movie is the spiritual ancestor of The Sixth Sense.

The vibe of this movie is also just really creepy. Everything seems slightly off and nothing looks or feels exactly right. There is a solid Twilight Zone feel to it. The fact that it is in Black & White only enhances this feeling. 

Worth noting is the haunting organ soundtrack throughout the whole movie. It adds to this feeling.

This movie is a classic for good reason. It might not be the scariest movie I have seen, but it is a very satisfying one.  

October Horror Movie Challenge 2023
Viewed: 5
First Time Views: 2

31 Days of Halloween Movie Challenge


PT Dilloway said...

I've seen the Rifftrax Live version of that about 100 times in the last six years and the un-live version a few times. It surprised me that Criterion made a version of it because it's not a great movie. Maybe if I watched it un-riffed it would seem better. It's basically like a long version of the original Twilight Zone episode where a woman is driving cross-country and keeps seeing a hitchhiker who says, "Going my way?" Eventually she realizes she's dead.

Probably my favorite part in the Rifftrax Live is when she's addressing the doctor's chair and you can clearly see the top of Herk Harvey's head so it's supposed to be setting up this scary reveal but doesn't. I doubt Criterion fixed it either where in the dressing room mirror you can clearly see Harvey's face in the bottom of the mirror at one point.

What I did find interesting though was when I went to Salt Lake in 2014 I went past where that carnival used to be. The original and second version were torn down but there's a much-smaller third building there with the onion domes that I guess is a concert venue but it was closed when I went there.

WQRobb said...

Filmed in my home town of Lawrence, Kansas; in fact the church scenes are at the parish were I used to work--Trinity Episcopal Church. We would get one or two movie buffs a year wanting to see the organ and the stained glass window in the loft.