Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cult Classic: Carnival of Souls!

I don't know about you, but this scared me. I saw it on television when I was a teen and it really frightened me, although the fear factor is more eerie than anything.

The film was independently made on a very low budget but that never infringed upon its popularity. It became a cult classic.

The story is simple. A car crashes off of a bridge. There is a lone survivor (Mary). We see her looking dazed as she comes out of the river. Everything will be fine or will it? She survived, didn't she? Sure, she did. I saw her walk out of the water!

The film is at its most effective when we see what Mary sees. We feel her confusion, her deafness. When she's in a department store and everything goes silent--we feel her isolation and fear.

And when she can't get anything on her car radio but creepy organ music, it's almost too much to bear. The fright level in this film is high and its achieved without violence of any kind. No blood, gore, axes in the head or a copious amount of dead teenagers.

When playing at the church where she was previously hired as organist, she begins to play something the Vicar doesn't like. He asks her to leave.  She's confused because some force was making her play this discordant, weird music.

For further eerie embellishment, there is a ghoulish looking man who keeps following her. He's here there and everywhere. When she goes to see a doctor expecting to get help, creepy man is there. The scene where he turns around in the doctor's chair is beyond scary!

The lead is good. Candace Hilligoss is properly frightened and bewildered and the creepy man could not be better. He was also the director of the film, Herk Harvey.

The dance pavillion at an abandoned resort is used to the greatest effect. I don't want to say more than that, just in case you've miss this, the original and best version. I will say that everything is tied up and there are no loose ends. I don't mind a thought provoking climax to a film or book for that matter but I don't like to be left feeling I was cheated. This film does not cheat. It gives you chills beyond belief.

Shot in black and white, there is great use of shadow to enhance the menace and the utter creepiness. This is one of my all-time fave films. See it and you will see what I mean.

Here's the trailer. Enjoy!

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