Made in 1962 Carnival of Souls was director Herk Harvey’s only feature film and was released to little acclaim back in the day. As years went by it was gradually reassessed and became a real bona fide ‘cult’ film. Plenty of modern film makers and cinephiles sing it’s praises, so is it as good as people say?
After a tragic car accident Mary Henry moves away to a small town to become one of it’s churches’ organist. Taking up lodgings at a guest house, the accident has made feel withdrawn and isolated. Her people skills certainly aren’t the best and she isn’t impressed with the other boarder’s attempt to ‘chat her up’.
Mary constantly sees an eerie man in a suit wherever she seems to go and with his pasty look, she becomes constantly on edge. The man (played by the director in an uncredited role) seems to be only seen by Mary and the fact people appear to ignore her when she speaks to them, she gradually begins to unravel.
Who would have thought a film which was long forgotten would now be deemed as a classic of cinema and Carnival of Souls certainly deserves that accolade. There’s atmospheric camerawork, some nice editing and a terrific organ based musical score which is creepy as hell. Some of the performances seem a little dodgy and a tad amateurish, but lead actress Candace Hilligross is simply excellent as the troubled Mary.
Criterion have done a fine job restoring the film, it might be old and it might be a bit creaky but I can safely say Carnival of Souls is still a bloody good film. If you’ve never seen it, you can see how a lot of modern day films have felt it’s influence but stay away from the (unrelated) remake starring Bobbie Phillips, it was a bit of a travesty.
- Starring Candace Hilligross Frances Feist Sidney Berger Stan Levitt
- Director Herk Harvey
- Distributor The Criterion Collection