Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962, USA)

Carnival of Souls is a truly unique entry in the history of American horror. Made during a time when independent productions were still relatively uncommon, the film was the product of Herk Harvey. Harvey had mostly been used to making industrial films up until this point, and he never made another feature after CarnivalCarnival was largely ignored upon its initial release, and while it did receive a minor theatrical run, it only gained the attention of audiences and critics in later years. The film entered the public domain and appeared on many numerous VHS and DVD copies throughout the years.

The film tells the story of Mary Henry, a woman who somehow miraculously emerges from the water after being in a car that is driven off of a bridge. She enters a new town - Salt Lake City - and begins to work as an organist at a local church. She finds it difficult to assimilate in this new town and soon she begins finding herself the subject of advances by a man in the building where she is living. She also finds herself being pursued by a ghoulish man, played by Herk Harvey. What this all means is up to the viewer to decide.

Some of the film's weaknesses add to its bizarre and surreal quality. The stilted dialogue almost gives the film a Lynchian vibe. There is a quietness sometimes that creates a sense of unease. The raw and handheld quality also lends a creepy mood to the film. The film's settings are also fantastic - especially the abandoned amusement park in Utah which provides the eerie landscape of the film's finale. Though the film is a horror movie, it feels much more like the European arthouse movies that were coming out around the same time - whether this was intentional, I am not sure.


9/10


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