In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Carnival Of Souls

The good thing about renting movies via an online retailer is you get to fill in the blanks. Carnival Of Souls is a title I’d heard cinephiles talk about adoringly for years, but I never got around to watching it until it showed up in my mailbox last week. I got a real kick out of this movie. It really encapsulates the time period in which it was made. I can imagine it influencing America’s contemporary filmmakers. While watching the imagery of the climactic fairground sequence, I wondered if dark directors David Lynch and Tim Burton saw this in their youth and filed it away in their twisted psyches. I have no idea if they’ve even seen the movie, but something tells me it’s quite likely. There are also the easy parallels to be drawn between Carnival Of Souls director Herk Harvey and legend George A. Romero. Both started in the business shooting local shorts and both set out to make a low budget horror feature with the help of local investors. A lot of ingenuity and sheer will made their projects rise above their low budgets. History has been a lot kinder to Romero, but Carnival has still garnered a modest following over the years.

I’ll tell you something that baffles me about Carnival though. Why didn’t lead actress Candace Hilligoss have a bigger career? I mean, look at her. The camera loves her. She’s absolutely striking.

If you are wondering, yes, my phone camera is still shit.

I expected to look her up on Imdb and find a string of sixties B movies, but 1964’s Curse of the Living Corpse was the only one. I'm aware that Carnival was shot in rural Kansas - far from the bright lights of Hollywood - and released to very little fanfare, but I still find it extremely curious. I was hoping for another epiphany, like when I saw Edwige Fenech for the first time. After seeing Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (yes, no joke, anyone familiar with gialli should know titles like this are par for the course) and being quite taken with Fenech, I was ecstatic to discover a vast filmography to track down. Unfortunately, with Hilligoss, I was not as fortunate.

The score by Gene Moore is so great. It just feels like the sixties, resonating like Bernard Herrmann and H.G. Lewis’s old stuff. Carnival Of Souls plays out like an elongated Twilight Zone episode – which is no surprise since it is fairly similar to Zone ep ‘The Hitch Hiker’ – with a conclusion which has sadly been used countless times since. The antagonist (known only as The Man and played by director Harvey himself) isn’t much to look at – kind of reminded me of Grandpa Munster to be honest – but some of the “scare” setups were way ahead of their time.

Overall, an excellent piece of vintage American horror cinema and should be sought out by anyone who is interested in that sort of thing.

1 comment:

Michael Shaye said...

I think it is time for you to buy a camera with a better phone with all the proceeds this blog is earning you.

Please write a post about how the horror genre has influenced movies that are not horror because I have never seen any of these movies but enjoy your blog.