Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Carnival of Souls (1962)



“It's funny... the world is so different in the daylight. In the dark, your fantasies get so out of hand. But in the daylight everything falls back into place again.” 

            If I had not read the plot of the film I would have blown Carnival of Souls off completely. It sounds like all the slasher porn crap that is out today and worse it is a “horror” film from the sixties. I think I read the plot somewhere and I saw a clip of it on TV and figured I would give the film a shot. I found myself laughing a bit but also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the style and the direction.
            A group of girls in a car race a group of boys in another car. The cars come to a bridge and the girls’ car goes off the bridge. All lives seem to be lost until a while later one of the girls Mary emerges from the water. A few days later she is ready to leave her town having accepting a job at a church as their new organist in Utah. Many people tell her to wait a while to see her parents and stay in town since the accident was only a few days previous.
            As Mary arrives in her new town she drives past an old building. She looks out the passenger side of the window and she sees a man’s facing looking back at her. She drives off the road with the building looming in the background. She gets over the shock and drives away. Mary comes to the boarding where she will be living. She is one of only three people living the house the other is the landlady and a man down the hall.
            Mary is curious in the old building she passed on the road, something is pulling her there. The priest of the church she is working for takes her there. He tells her it used to be an old bathhouse when the lake was still there then it was turned into a dancehall and a pavilion for carnivals. At this time things are going well for Mary….but not for long. She begins to see the man she saw in her passenger window in full form. One night she even has a meltdown thinking she sees and hears the man walking up to her bedroom. She begins to see this man all over town. To top things off she goes into a trance while playing the organ. She sees souls coming out of the lake and dancing in the bathhouse. The priest comes yelling that she is playing profane music and fires her.
            As she is shopping one day she goes into a trance. Everything around her seems to be stuck in time she seems to be the only one around. Mary comes out of her trance when she comes to a park and hears birds in the trees. But when she comes out she sees the man again.
            Mary puts her car in the shop but a trance starts again. She runs outside and nobody seems to be able to see or hear her. She runs all the way to the old bathhouse. There Mary sees souls of people dancing. She sees herself dancing with the man who has been following her. The souls see Mary and chase after all around the pavilion.
            I know the summary of the film is not that great but I cannot really say too much without giving the whole plot away. Maybe in my jumbled mess you can figure out Mary’s story and what her deal is.
            The story is really not that spectacular which I guess it is why I could not give a very good account of it. The plot is really thin and does not really give too much detail. What does make this film interesting is the fact that it is filmed in black and white which makes the film really creepy. The man that Mary sees freaked me the hell out along with the other people like him. What makes this film a bit scarier is that Mary is so detached from everything around her: She seems to not even care for her job and she does not even bother trying to speak to anyone around her that when she does need to speak to someone no one notices her, literally.
            The locations were all filmed out in Kansas. The very Midwestern feel and setting gives the film more of a detachment from reality. The towns are small the character is closed in this small place on top of going through some weird things. This gave me a bit of a claustrophobic, paranoid feeling.
        The only music in the film comes from an organ. That adds to the kind of intense atmosphere and the creepiness. 
            There is no one famous or well known in the cast but each member was perfect. Candice Hilligoss was great in the leading role because you can believe
            Carnival of Souls is very misleading. You need to go into watching this film not expecting too much out of it. The story kind of builds and builds and you are left feeling very unsatisfied. But at the same time I found the whole thing interesting and I liked it. I really liked the direction by Herk Harvey he captured a great atmosphere and some eerie moments with the souls.  Carnival of Souls is most definitely not one of the greatest films ever made (hell, I was laughing through most of it) but it is worth sitting through for the direction and how black and white films can really add to a film.