Carnival of Souls (1962)

   
Produced & Directed by: Hark Harvey

Written by: John Clifford

Starring:

Candace Hilligoss ... Mary Henry
Frances Feist ... Mrs. Thomas
Sidney Burger ... John Linden
Art Ellison ... Minister
Stan Levitt ... Dr. Samuels

Release Date: Theatrical: September 26, 1962

 

Rating:

 

An organ player named Mary Henry (Candace Hillgoss) is enjoying a day car cruise with her two friends but suddenly there's a challenged drag race and the women accept but when they do their car suddenly loses control and falls off a bridge.
After trying to retrieve the vehicle by some inspectors and encounter Mary rising from the river while her friends supposedly drowned.

After Mary recovers she accepts a new job in town by being a church organist but sees an image of a mysterious phantom that seems to reside in an old closed down carnival nearby where she rents a suite.

Also she goes through hallucinations when she thinks that people don't notice her presence and Mary must confront the personal demons of her spiritual insouciance.
Is she really alive from the accident or just a wandering spirit
?

 

The film starts off nicely with 3 men and women in a car doing a drag race as there's not much dialogue used but yet it makes you wonder as to what will happen which leaves an impression that it won't be good and suddenly a car falls off a bridge into a muddy river as in today's standards looked a little too obvious than suspenseful.
Then later on while people all around the area trying to find the vehicle the character Mary Henry arises out of the river dazed as you wonder how the hell she survived being in the muddy river for so long.
In the story there's a long moment with her driving alone in the night on a silent road. Things seem suddenly too quiet and peaceful along with a distance look at a closed down carnival residing which things start to seem creepy but what is more scary is a reflection of the phantom figure in her rear car window in which today's standards would still look spooky and effective.
Later on in the story the Minister takes Mary up to the carnival in which all of the settings looked deserted as this worked very well to make the plot seem very mysterious as well as spooky too. There's a moment when Mary asks to check out the carnival and he tells her that the place isn't safe since it's boarded up as the film makes you watching for more hoping for some scary moments about to happen later on.
A real great scene that is scary to watch is the Phantom slowly walking up some stairs in a house that Mary is renting and she panics by running away into her room while he follows her and she locks her door. Then you can hear the footsteps growing loudwer closer to the door making you wonder as to what will happen next.
A nice screen effect looking like a flashback sequence occurs during a moment when Mary is in a clothing store and later on tries to talk to anyone but everything is silent and don't notice her as well as everything it mute which seemed very weird but was well put in making you wonder even more as to why this is all happening.
There's also moments when she talks to her counsellor about all of this when things are back to normal and he gets aggressive with her making out she's imagining this. You don't see someone doing this to a patient almost making you think that this gal isn't really in the real world at all and making the story seem even stranger.
I got excited when she decided to go and look around the abandoned carnival hoping something really shocking would happen but everwhere she goes the place is deserted. Then later on we spot good ole Phantom lying in some water asleep in the back ocean of the place.
Then there's good moments on Mary playing a church organ and clips on zombies rising from the ocean and dancing in a fast motion in a hallway of the carnival as all of this looked hauntinglike and twisted too. Plus a good hallucination sequence with the Phantom stopping her from playing only to really be one of the owners at the church getting aggressive with her for playing nasty music. This drew in nicely like she was losing it big time.
Mary starts to lose her sanity even more spotting this Phantom stalking her on and off as well as things going silent again while she tries to take a bus to run away from the terrors happening only to find that the bus is full of zombie's in which alot of this had some nifty writing for the story making it more suspsenseful and in a neat horror fashion too.
But near the end is what looked really exciting is when the final terror happens to Mary when she sees the zombies dance in a carnival hall and then invade on her. However during the end when the story tries to explain itself it's still difficult to know what was what.
Bottom line is that this is a truly chilling tale in the same taste as a Hitchcock movie almost mixing in some Psycho elements in certain scene's. Also with the Phantom stalking Mary looked like where John Carpenter might have borrowed the same chemistry for Halloween.
Some scenes are weak though and lacks inspiration but it does pick up too and the picture is one of the clearest B&W films of the early 60's too as it almost even gives you a radio play type of feel when you listen to the creepy music throughout it as well as the dialogues in it and the sound effects but the writing is a little bad in certain spots.

The acting is excellent for it's time. Candace Hillgoss (Mary Henry) does a marvellous job in her role as a troubled survivor who is an organ player and knows how to behave paranoid. Has good reactions by making it clear she's not returning to play an organ at a church as she really seemed troubled. Plus she really draws in some good screams as well as really bolting from one moment to the other as well as acting believeably frightened when she spots someone and running into her room during a certain scene. Does well by playing the organ in a church and has great blocking as if something is taking over her body along with some paranoid expressions on her face. Trips out terrifically when she spots a reflection of one of the cast members in her bedroom mirror and freaks out. She shows good non expressions during a certain scene when someone tries to talk to her and she says nothing as if she were a zombie herself. She really knew how to put charisma to her part in the movie. Her looks were a bonus too fitting her character.
F
rances Feist (Mrs. Thomas) seems to do well with her role as the nice landlady and knowing how to prove her point by being a character actress with a nice wholesomness with her looks as well as a good friendliness too. All in all she really comes across well into what she did as well as getting good and dramatic really knowing her craft as a serious actress. You can tell that she was a stage actress with her performance in this one which is a compliment.
Sidney Burger
(John Linden) was terrific as the sleazy and flirtatious drunken womaniser in the film as he knows what he's doing for his part. He brings on a nice energetic charm to his role as someone who is not the least bit shy and really getting what he wants. He does a believeable job by acting drunk in certain scene's along with getting upset too especially going ballistic against someone's actions. He was one of the most energetic actors showing a ton of spunk and really making his part memorable too.

The music was composed by Gene Moore and did a good creepy job at it too with the icy organ music as it sounded extremely original and necessary for a film during this time era. Plus it does sound like he'd be good using music like this for those radio plays giving it a operfect old fashioned creepy feel to it.

Mary Henry: I don't belong in the world.

Mrs. Thomas: You just let your imagination run away with you.

Mrs. Thomas: You can take all the baths you want.

Mary Henry: In the dark, your fantasies get so far out of hand.

Minister: You cannot live in isolation from the human race, you know.

John Linden: You're gonna need me in the evening, you just don't know it yet.

John Linden: [pours whiskey in his morning coffee] What do you think, I'm an alcoholic? I just like to start the day off in a good mood.
Mary Henry: You must be hilarious by noon.

Zombies: Come with us. Come and dance.