Carnival of Souls
Carnival of Souls
1962. Directed by Herk Harvey
"In the dark, your fantasies get so out of hand."
An experimental horror film, Carnivals of Souls is a clinic in how to build an atmosphere of dread without spilling a single drop of blood.
Mary (Candace Hilligoss) and her girlfriends get into a drag race with a car of boys and a tragic accident sends the girls' car off of a bridge into a river. Mary emerges unscathed and sets about traveling to Utah where she has been hired as an organist. Mary's world begins to slowly unravel with the appearance of The Man (played by director Herk Harvey), a ghoul from the underworld that seeks to reap Mary's soul, or is it all in her head?
Completely underrated upon it's double feature release, critics have returned to Carnival of Souls, praising it for it's lack of violence and ingenious world building hysterics. Filmed in crisp black and white, Maurice Prather's camera not only holds Hilligoss as the center of attention, but manages to capture some of the most unsettling scenes of loneliness and surreal terror. Every building is a shell of it's former life. There are ghosts everywhere, even when you can't see them, you know they're waiting for you.
Gene Moore's amazing, droning, organ based score is another culprit that's presence allows for no respite from The Man's phantasmic assault on Mary. The ghoul's themselves are brought to life by minimal and undeniably creepy makeup by George Corn and simple formal wear costumes.
Carnival of Souls is a landmark of independent horror cinema. It is the very definition of show, don't tell storytelling and it's ability to get under your skin and rattle your cage without the use of gore and violence is an example that a lot of current filmmakers could learn from. Still relevant today, Carnival of Souls has influenced many great directors, such as David Lynch.
Available now on Huluplus, I highly recommend this grassroots horror experience.