Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) survives a drag race in a rural Kansas town, then takes a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she becomes haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her to an abandoned la... more »keside pavillion. Herk Harvey's macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late night television and has been bootlegged for years. Made by industrial filmmakers on a modest budget, "Carnival of Souls" was intended to have the "look of a Bergman" and "feel of a Cocteau," and succeeds with its strikingly-used locations and spooky organ score.« less
"The merits of this film are obvious enough to simply summarize: it is the one and only original shoestring budget classic. No, the plot isn't original, but that hasn't stopped others from picking it up and running with it, sometimes in different directions, and sometimes even more successfully (see "Jacob's Ladder" for a deeper, and darker, take). But I doubt that ANYone ANYwhere has made a better film for less money; as someone below wrote, ""Blair Witch", eat your heart out."And then to have it released on a Criterion DVD, well, it just doesn't get any better than that! OK, we may not need TWO versions, .... And the second DVD isn't just a filler: you get anything and everything you could think of associated with the movie, including "now and then" visits to the film sites, a great hour-long tribute, a history of the film company, stills, probably more than all but the most compulsive fan would want but you won't feel as though you've gotten short-changed! As always, the real reason we love Criterion is the quality of their prints - they are simply THE BEST you are going to see. Anyone who has seen this film on one of its numerous cheapie incarnations on VHS will be ecstatic with this version - you won't believe how superior the picture quality is.I have to say "get this now, before it's discontinued". This edition can NOT be bettered; you will NEVER EVER see a better version of this classic sleeper.Now, Criterion, when are you going to release Robert Wise's "The Haunting", hmmmm?"
A B-film that actually works
Daniel Hirshleifer | Los Angeles, California USA | 06/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carnival of Souls is an old B-film that you might have seen on old Saturday night horror shows. As Herk Harvey (the director) said, this film was shot on a budget that wouldn't have sustained the opening moments of Back To The Future. However, this film is able to sustain a creepy and oppressive atmosphere throughout, and that is the major achievement. Even though I knew when every "scary" moment was coming, and I guessed the ending 20 minutes before the film actually ended, that knowledge didn't ruin it for me. That's how strong the movie is, that you can enjoy the film even if you knew everything about it. The acting is stiff and the dialogue is often stilted, but that just adds to the strange and dark atmosphere of the film. And the Criterion release is a real gem. Two discs, the first has the theatrical release of the film, and the second has the director's cut. The film looks incredible. I've yet to see such an old and cheaply made movie look so good. And the extras are also great. Documentaries, outtakes, interviews, and oh, that organ music. If you're a fan of horror, you must own this film. If you're a film buff, you must own it. If you're a DVD afficionado, you must own it. If you're just looking for a good movie to watch on a Saturday night, then please, choose this one. It delivers."
Eerie horror movie
Kelley Hunt | Texas, USA | 04/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This dvd has several good features. You can choose to watch the film in black and white or colorized, with Mike Nelson's(MST3K)commentary or without. Mike's commentary is pretty much the same kind of commentary as was typical for the MST3K movies - and it runs throughout the film. Some extra info is included about the film and also the original movie trailers. The colorization is not bad, although you can tell it's been colorized because of the flatness of the colors. The black and white is scarier, I think, because in color the carnival souls look about as frightening as Brain Guy from MST3K. This movie was made in the early '60's and it is remarkably similar in plotline to a Twilght Zone episode entitled "The Hitch-hiker." After being in a car wreck, a young woman drives cross-country to take a job as a church organist in Utah. She passes an eerie Mormon amusement park which has been closed down and is strangely drawn to it. Throughout the film she notices something is wrong!~ But what can it be? I won't give away what happens for those who haven't seen it yet. Mike's best line: "It's a bad sign when your creepy new landlady tells you to take all the baths you want.""
Will you stop [complaining] about the flaws?
Billy Pilgrim | The Living Room | 08/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, some of the acting is very bad. Yes, some of the sound is not in sync with the picture (a quality, in my mind, which adds to the "out of body" atmosphere.) And yes, some times the organ only sound track can wear a little thin (even though, for the most part, it makes the film.) Yes, this movie has some flaws. That's because it's shot on a budget of $30,000. By guys who made hygeine films for a living. Who also didn't have the cash to pay professional actors. All of these detials are completely unimportant.
To fully experience this film, you have to discover it in the way most of its fans do. On a TV set, in the early hours of the morning, alone, with the volume at an almost non-exsistent level. And it also doesn't hurt to be half way asleep. The scene in which Mary glances "The Man's" face in the window will jolt you awake like nothing else.
Some personal favourite moments: The above mentioned scene in the window of the car. The organ playing scenes ("Profanity! Sacralige!") The scenes in which Mary loses all contact with the world of the living (these sequences caused me nightmares.) Candace Hiligos (a great performance, comparable to the best silent film acting.) And of course, the final "dance of the dead.""
Psychic isolation rendered through landscape.
Brent Carleton | 02/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gallons of ink have been devoted, (justifiably) to this film. But few have perhaps paid sufficient due to the cinematographer, Maurice Prather.
Mr. Prather aids and abets the script at every turn in his rendering of Miss Hilligoss's (in the role of Mary Henry) isolation from those around her. From his crow's nest shots of her wandering through the deserted carnival to the scenes of her lone sedan traversing the twilight prairie highway, he unfailingly delivers a picture of un-peopled vastness--a vastness that cannot be breached by human or psychic outreach.
And that is what this film is really about--Mary Henry's inability to accept the fact that she has already departed from the world she continues to haunt.
Ultimately she knows, (as does her personal Charon--the Carnival Ghoul) that she must be reclaimed--and it is in her persistent refusal to yield to his summons, from which the conflict and tension of the film springs.
This is perhaps revealed most disquietingly in a scene near the beginning of the film, when the minister accompanies her to take a look at the abandoned carnival--but refuses to accompany her across the barricade. Thus, though the visit is without ostensible horrific incident--it concludes with a silhouette of the Carnival Ghoul dropping his head in resignation from behind a gated doorway inside the pavilion, while at the very same moment, Miss Hilligoss, (seemingly safe in a car already miles away) is stabbed with a sudden deja vu--reflected with a rueful knowing in her eyes--one of many brilliant moments in a film brimming with them.
And it should not merely be to the cognoscente that such an inevitable moment as this, terrifies far more meaningfully, than any knife wielding Friday the 13th slasher might.
As to Mr. Prather, note how similar are the contrast and tone levels he uses to depict the vast American mid-western landscapes under over-cast skies, to that used by Sven Nykvist in Bergman's "Winter Light." Though the Bergman film is set in Sweden--surely the similarity is not coincidental.