Carnival of Souls (1962)
July 3, 2014 11:07 AM - Subscribe

Wandering into a small town after an auto accident, to begin her new job as a church organist, young Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) begins to pick up strange vibes: none of the normal people in town seem to be able to see her, and she keeps being accosted by freakish pasty-faced types who seem to be dead on their feet.
posted by mathowie (35 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
A lot of tricks from this are still in heavy rotation, I can see why it's held in high regard.

That neighbour guy though, what a creep.
posted by Hoopo at 11:48 AM on July 3, 2014


It made the hair stand up on my neck the first time I saw the guy outside the window but it wasn't nearly as effective for me the other times.

I didn't enjoy this one as much as others have (including Criterion, apparently).

On another note entirely, Beetlejuice starts with the same basic premise (car wreck, river, people finding themselves suddenly back on their journey not realizing what happened), though Tim Burton's whimsical/macabre humor and his slightly unhinged imagination give the rest of his film a very different feel.
posted by johnofjack at 11:49 AM on July 3, 2014


This film manages to feel at once familiar and enormously distinctive. I feel like the "main character was a ghost all along" trope dates back to at least Washington Irving's "The Adventure of the German Student" in America, and the stalked by death thing feels positively prehistoric. But there's something about the way it is presented that is so unusual -- the mix of flat, deadpan performances, the almost stage-play blocking, the amount of attention that is payed to secondary characters (like the horrible neighbor), and, of course, the glorious, hallucinogenic dance ballroom.

I think what I like about it is the sense of oppressive masculinity. Our main character has fraught interactions with every man she meets, from the show-off in the drag race to the patronizing minister, and even including the helpful Dr. Samuels, who actually pushes her to the pavilion where the biggest stalker of all, the dead man, is waiting for her.

I don't know if it was intended to put viewers in the position of inhabiting the world of schrodinger's rapist, but it sure now feels like that's where it landed.
posted by maxsparber at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I like the dreamlike logic of the film, where people do and say things that seem off and just unlike things that people would really do or say, but with such conviction that it doesn't seem like a failure of the film but like some sort of slightly wrong parallel world. Mary's sharp "I'm never coming back" to an employer with whom she seems to get along quite well; the daytrip with the minister to the fairground (why would this happen? even the characters seem to think it's odd); the minister seeing some sort of deep waywardness in Mary as he hears her play. "Lynchian" is a term that comes up a lot in reference to arthouse-y horror, but this really does seem to prefigure something like Mulholland Drive.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:31 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I liked it, exactly, but it has a certain something. It's almost outsider art-like in the way it kind of manages to be like a normal movie, but not quite. "Lynchian" was what struck me too, the weird, talky, stiff dialog, the odd pacing, people who act just a little different from how real people act.

And the neighbor really takes "leering" to a new level.

I'd be surprised if Lynch wasn't in some way inspired or influenced by this, both his relatively straight stuff like Blue Velvet, where most people talk more or less like the characters in this movie, up to Mulholland Dr..
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:36 PM on July 3, 2014


It made the hair stand up on my neck the first time I saw the guy outside the window but it wasn't nearly as effective for me the other times.

The only other time it really got me was when the main ghoul was at the bottom of the stairs at the boarding house.

At the church at the beginning, they keep focusing on a particular figure in a stained glass image, going so far as to pose the "Man" (the main ghoul) in the same way in one shot in that same scene...In fact the Man enters the church seemingly with the sole purpose of posing looking up to his left just like the man in the stained glass. Does anyone know who that figure was supposed to be?
posted by doctornecessiter at 12:41 PM on July 3, 2014


The later movie that I've always compared this to is Jacob's Ladder (which itself is essentially an updated and expanded version of Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge")...Except on this viewing I noticed that the scene where the police, the minister and the therapist follow Mary's trail in the sand out away from the pavilion where it just ends, happens without Mary there to witness it. My interpretations of Jacob's Ladder and "Owl Creek Bridge" are that everything that happens after the lead character's traumas is purely hallucinatory as they're dying, but that scene in Carnival of Souls suggests that Mary might actually have left the scene of her accident, in spirit form(?). Or at least it complicates my comparisons to those other two things.

Oh, and, totally unrelated question: has anyone seen the remake with Larry Miller? I've almost watched it a few times just out of morbid curiosity, but what little I've read about it has warned me away.
posted by doctornecessiter at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


doctornecessiter: "Oh, and, totally unrelated question: has anyone seen the remake with Larry Miller? I've almost watched it a few times just out of morbid curiosity, but what little I've read about it has warned me away."

I saw this once, a long time ago, kind of actually thinking it was the original, or rather, just knowing the original by name and knowing it was considered a classic, without knowing much else. I don't remember anything about it other than it being crap.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:21 PM on July 3, 2014


but that scene in Carnival of Souls suggests that Mary might actually have left the scene of her accident, in spirit form(?)

I agree, it definitely didn't play like a hallucination for the most part and that made it sort of hard to pin down in terms of what actually happened. It seems kind of odd that her dying hallucination would be of quitting her old job and moving to a new town to play the organ in a different church, and doing mundane things by herself. I guess I would have just assumed that her dying visions would have been of familiar things like in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, so it almost played to me like she was a ghost actually interacting with people at times. But of course that makes less sense than it all being a hallucination.
posted by Hoopo at 3:24 PM on July 3, 2014


Does anyone else think it looks a little like Mary is being haunted by Mark Gatiss?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:18 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really love this movie, it's one of my all-time favorites. I watch a lot of horror movies, but this is one of the few that gave me an honest to goodness wake-up-screaming nightmare after watching it. I don't feel like it's particularly scary, but it's amazingly effective at sustaining a creepy, unsettled mood throughout its runtime.

This article at Offscreen has some interesting historical background on the making of Carnival of Souls, and seems to be the main source for the film's wikipedia page (it gives a synopsis in paragraph two, so spoiler warning). It also goes into the "main character was dead all along" stuff a bit.

This is the third time I've watched it, and it still holds up. Some thoughts I had on this viewing:

1. It's interesting that for a film that has a significant portion of its running time set in church, there is no crucifix ever shown on screen (as far as I could see). Also, every time we see the inside of a church it's deserted - or at least, we never see a congregation.

2. This is one of the earlier examples I can think of of the "shopping mall as an inherently spooky place" trope. (One of the others is the Twilight Zone episode "The After Hours", first broadcast in 1960 and memorably remade in 1986.)

3. For a first (and final) feature film, it's got some great cinematic moments. It's definitely got its share of clunky static establishing shots that could have come right out of an industrial, but there are also some outstanding tracking shots, especially in the sequence where Mary is in the car repair shop.

I agree that there is a lot of stuff in here about oppressive masculinity, and the way that women are not able to make themselves heard in society, though I was thinking of it more as a variety of Man in the Gray Flannel Suit American anomie rather than something explicitly related to gender relations.

One of the very last shots in the movie, where Mary suddenly sees herself all done up in corpse paint and grinning lifelessly in the Man's arms, still made my skin crawl on this viewing. It's a great shot, and it's followed by a really immaculately timed, fantastic scream from Candace Hilligoss (whose performance is really what makes this movie what it is).

I'm still not sure what the film is trying to say about spirituality and the afterlife. In contrast to "Owl Creek Bridge" or Jacob's Ladder, it's notably missing a moment of catharsis where the dying person lets go and accepts their transition to the next plane or whatever. I think possibly that's what has made it stick so firmly in my imagination.
posted by whir at 6:00 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm still not sure what the film is trying to say about spirituality and the afterlife. In contrast to "Owl Creek Bridge" or Jacob's Ladder, it's notably missing a moment of catharsis where the dying person lets go and accepts their transition to the next plane or whatever. I think possibly that's what has made it stick so firmly in my imagination.

This is a really fascinating observation. The more I think about it, I'm not sure the film has anything to say about the afterlife at all. It seems to be more about the expectations that society is placing on Mary -- to find a man, to settle down, to believe in the teachings of the church -- and how she struggles to live life on her own terms. Death is usually a metaphor for, like, death, in most fiction, but here I think it's a metaphor for social conformity, or -- dare I say it -- maybe even patriarchy. Death to Mary, maybe, is falling into a dance with a bunch of other coupled-up zombies with painted-on smiles. It's the death-in-life that she's trying to run away from, I think.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:33 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


First off: wow. I'd been meaning to see Carnival of Souls for decades, and had no idea how creepy and experimental it was. Thanks so much for picking it. From the start, with those goofy tilted titles and oddly beautiful shots, I found myself thinking about the year it was made and where it fits in the black-and-white horror movie pantheon. When Mary's bizarrely friendly new landlady shows her the bathroom and tells her "you can talk all the baths you want" at 13:30, I thought, "Is this an homage to Psycho?" Hitchcock's film came out two years earlier and had to have been an influence. And the slowly building, claustrophobic, isolated mood felt very much like Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which came out six years later (and which, the Internet tells me, was deeply influenced by Carnival of Souls). So, this movie feels kind of seminal to horror film. I can't believe I haven't seen it before now.

Also, it just might be one of the best 60s B-movies I've ever seen. Sure, you can watch the director struggle with his limited budget, but almost everything rises above its situation to contribute to the mood of existential dread - from the thoughtfulness of the framing of various shots to the brilliant sound design. The weirdly insistent chiming of the customer service bells at the start of the shopping mall scene, the smart, increasingly rapid cuts during the scene where Mary's organ playing gets taken over by sacrilegious forces until the zombies attack and the preacher grabs her hands...there's so much good stuff here.

Just a great little film, and, now that I've seen it, obviously one of the essentials in the history of the genre. Thanks again; great choice.
posted by mediareport at 8:24 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


it almost played to me like she was a ghost actually interacting with people at times. But of course that makes less sense than it all being a hallucination.

I think the seduction of the oily housemate and the cop/doctor/preacher staring at her footprints into nothing at the end pretty clearly indicate she was corporeal for at least part of the movie.

Death to Mary, maybe, is falling into a dance with a bunch of other coupled-up zombies with painted-on smiles. It's the death-in-life that she's trying to run away from, I think.

And, at the same time, she's a semi-corporeal ghost trying to avoid getting sucked down into a quite real and hellish carnival of souls for all eternity.

Works both ways, I think.
posted by mediareport at 8:32 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I inadvertantly read the Wikipedia summary prior to watching and that was a huge mistake. To say that Wikipedia contains spoilers is a huge understatement. It practically describes the film scene by scene. It unfortunately ruined the 'surprise' ending that Mary was dead all along.

I am not a film critic, so didn't reach the levels of depth that most of you are discussing. However, I feel like the horror itself wasn't really Mary's horror that she was already dead. In fact, she seemed to already know this and that's why she was answering the questions in such a curt manner. Saying that she was never coming back, she couldn't bother to visit her family, and that she wasn't interested in close relationships with people. She knew that she soon would be gone and wasn't even attempting to form any lasting bonds.

The real horror is that of the other people in the film. They don't actually show this part, but when the people are out in the sand and see where Mary's footprints stop it is just a mystery at that point. But, in a matter of time the news will travel that the car was pulled out of the river and Mary's body was found inside and all the people she interacted with with be royally freaked out.

The boarding house lady let a specter stay at her house. The creepy neighbor tried to take advantage of a ghost! The minister let an 'evil' (?) being into the church to play the organ. Oh my!!

For me, only a couple of scenes were really creepy. The ones where the ghouls were just under water and looking at the camera really made me feel uncomfortable, and the scene where she is sleeping in the car in the garage and the ghoul comes into the darkness made me squirm. So, even though this movie wasn't really scary, it still gets the highest score yet recorded on the MULPSEAPH, a 4.4. Still not into the realm of freakishly frightening, but a move in the right direction. For those of you that care, this makes the film slightly less scary than being attacked by a flock of seagulls, and slightly more scary than being attacked by A Flock of Seagulls.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:44 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


'Oppressive masculinity' is exactly right. The thing that struck me is not even the schrodingers rapist thing so much as how controlling the men are. The awful neighbour, forcing/manipulating his way into her room, the doctor in the park who grabs her and won't let go no matter how hard she struggles (I find that so infuriating). The priest who sacks her for not having a soul, yet lectures her and warns her not to turn her back on the church (which, rather sensibly, she ignores and keeps on walking). They try to control her and invalidate her experience.

Terrifying though her experience is, the ending is a necessary one for her. She is caught in limbo, soulless. She is disconnected from the living, and from her former life. She has lost her enjoyment. The dead appear frightening to her only because she does not yet realise she is one of them. They are her family, come to bring her home.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems, on a first viewing, that the dead are chasing and tormenting her at the end, but really, they're just excited to see her.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:02 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I notice the RiffTrax for this film is free on Hulu. I'm going to have to try and watch that too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:06 AM on July 4, 2014


Well, last night I got 46 minutes in to what is apparently a Wes Craven "remake" of this movie before I finally decided that this just simply could not be the movie that was posted about, despite some similar elements. Can I just say that I hate clowns? Because I fucking hate clowns and now I'm scared of balloons too.
posted by freejinn at 12:50 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


The word you're looking for is "reimagining".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:13 PM on July 4, 2014


There's actually a really sad story of betrayal involved in that Wes Craven remake, according to Candace Hilligoss in this interview. She says she came up with a treatment for a sequel but was deliberately excluded from discussions about the "reimagining," and has pretty vicious things to say about the folks she thinks dissed her, including Wes Craven. It's worth a read for the extra layer of psychological horror it adds to the story:

Then he had the publicity company that's handling the new Carnival call me up: 'We'd like you to come down and pose with the cast,' etc., etc. I said, 'Why would I want to do that?' The guy said, 'Well, we think it would be a lot of fun.' 'Fun? Fun to help someone who stabbed me in the back and stole a project from me? You have the nerve to call me and ask me to go down and push your picture?' The guy said, 'I don't understand. Peter says you're very nice!' I said, 'Of course I'm nice -- I spent 18 months helping him. I'm sorry that he turned out to be such a shark, but I guess they learn fast in Hollywood.'

Q: Did you ever see a script, or get an idea what this new film will be like?

CANDACE: I don't know. They never sent me a script, Peter Soby never discussed it with me, never wanted me to know anything about it. All he wanted was to get my face on film so he could use the good will that I had generated with Carnival. Let this be a lesson to anyone in the film world who has an idea, who wants to go around and peddle it. Here I thought I was protected by friendship -- but friendship means nothing. Frankly, I felt totally betrayed by Herk Harvey and John Clifford. I thought that they were on my side, and I was stunned that when they saw an opportunity, they didn't care any more.

posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Be sure to read the last page, where Candace is almost unbelievably savage as she dissects the Craven version:

CANDACE HILLIGOSS: ...And Wes Craven, I think, should be hung by his thumbs at Hollywood and Vine for movie fans to stone, because he's so devastated the intent of the original.

Q: Do you happen to know how much Craven had to do with it?

CANDACE: It doesn't matter. It's under his umbrella, and he's got his name pasted all over it...Do we blame Craven or director Grossman for this idiotic portrayal of the lost souls, giant fetuses that looked as if they were covered in pink bubble gum, having epileptic seizures, were so silly. The only thing that scared me was the fact that these people who made this movie thought that this would sell [laughs]! That was the most frightening part of the whole thing...

Q: Did they have the nerve to take anything at all from your treatment?

CANDACE: No, because they were too stupid. It shows how dumb they were -- I threw my pearls before swine here. And they were too stupid to know what the pearls were...

Q: It put me in the mood to start goin' to sleep and wakin' up.

CANDACE: Well, this is why it got boring. I lost track of the number of times she got in trouble and woke up. And as an audience, you no longer knew what was supposed to be real and what wasn't. So you no longer cared. Maybe Wes Craven would have done better to remake one of those Perils of Pauline flicks.

Q: And your prediction is that the movie will lose money.

CANDACE: I don't even think they'll make back their costs. I hope it ends their careers. The producers, I mean. God forgive the actors; they weren't casting Hamlet that week, and actors need jobs. So forgive the actors. But the producers and the writer and the director -- may it end their careers.

posted by mediareport at 4:23 PM on July 4, 2014


She mad.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Totally unrelatedly, but to illustrate how out of touch I am with the horror genre, up until like 5 years ago I actually thought Wes Craven was Freddy Kreuger.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ha. You're in just the right club, then. Oh, and this, Literaryhero, was a very cool observation I hadn't thought of:

The real horror is that of the other people in the film...in a matter of time the news will travel that the car was pulled out of the river and Mary's body was found inside and all the people she interacted with with be royally freaked out.

*That* would be a great setup for a sequel. I think I disagree, though, that Mary had any kind of understanding that she was already dead, that she "knew that she soon would be gone and wasn't even attempting to form any lasting bonds." Sure, her statements about not coming back, not visiting her family, etc, carry double weight once you know she's in a netherworld between life and death, but she seems genuinely confused and scared throughout most of the film. I like whir's comment that the film is "notably missing a moment of catharsis where the dying person lets go and accepts their transition to the next plane or whatever."

She never really gets it. Also, EXISTENZ IS PAUSED raised another good point: the dancing zombies of the afterlife may not be so hellish after all.
posted by mediareport at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


DirtyOldTown, I only watched the RiffTrax version. It was actually the first feature-length RiffTrax I've seen, though I've watched a ton of their shorts.

I was surprised at the number of "setups" the commentary had...that is, jokes that were pre-arranged exchanges (often based on knowing what was coming up in the film). I always liked that MST3K avoided those as much as possible; though the show was just as scripted as RiffTrax, it always tried to maintain the illusion that the trio were riffing on a film they were seeing for the first time.

I was also surprised by how absurdist some of the humor was, which made me realize that for a show about a guy in space being forced to watch b-movies with robots, MST3K was surprisingly grounded in its humor, or at least came from a different older school of absurdist humor: MST3K was Weird Al / Frank Zappa absurd, whereas the absurdist comedy I heard on this (from Kevin exclusively, I think) was more of the 2000s Adult Swim "Isn't that so random? Isn't random stuff hilarious?" variety. It wasn't overpowering—there were maybe five instances of it in this episode—but I thought it was an interesting distinction.


Anyway, we're not talking about RiffTrax, we're talking about Carnival Of Souls. When I finished their commentary on the film, I was really happy that it existed...I'd wanted to at least follow this discussion, but it was clear that underneath the comedy the original film was just laughably terrible. Poorly made, incoherent, closer (as someone said above) to baffling outsider art than cult cinema. I assumed this thread would be variations on "why did we watch this garbage?" So I was glad that at least I was able to watch it while still getting a few good laughs in.

But now, reading the actual thread and the insightful comments about what the film was trying to do, I really regret not watching it "straight" first, because I've robbed myself of being able to experience it for the first time, which sucks.

Whatever, I'm not trying to get all emo about it, I'm just surprised that simply adding an audio commentary erased any impact the film could have had on its own. Would this happen to any poorly made but ultimately effective films? The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most upsetting movies I've ever seen—and I love it so much that I don't let myself rewatch it as often as I'd like so as not to dilute the effect—but would it have the same effect if I'd watched it with three middle-aged dudes cracking wise over it? Yeah, probably not.

Anyway, there's no RiffTrax for Pontypool, so I'll talk to you guys next week...
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:24 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Would this happen to any poorly made but ultimately effective films?

As a random data point, a friend told me her dad (who had watched a number of the films on MST3K new in his youth) got all but table-flippingly mad at the one episode he saw and what it was "doing" to whatever movie it was they were making fun of, so...maybe?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm just surprised that simply adding an audio commentary erased any impact the film could have had on its own.

Yeah, I'd recommend not falling prey to the power/curse of easy snark again, if we ever do another 52-year-old classic. The RiffTrax/MST3k approach (which, don't get me wrong, I love) is one that very deliberately ignores historical context. I mean, that's most of the fun, isn't it? Treating the movie released 30-60 years ago as if it was released today, for today's audiences?

But: If the RiffTrax folks never once addressed the fact that this movie was an ahead-of-its-time low-budget gem that experimented throughout with weird approaches to sound, camera work, editing and character, then I'd say they really missed the mark in the rush to sneer. Again: watching a RiffTrax/MST3k version of this kind of movie for your first viewing is probably always going to be a big mistake.

I see kittens for breakfast made a similar point. Sometimes old, slightly hokey movies deserve more respect than the RiffTrax version gives them.

(Also, anyone else thinking how much 1950's Sunset Boulevard, narrated by a corpse, influenced this classic? It's killing me that while lots of sites seem to assume a direct influence of Carnival of Souls on Night of the Living Dead, I can't find any direct quotes from George Romero that back up that assumption. That said, I think I'd actually rather get direct quotes from Herk Harvey about what he thought of Psycho and Sunset Boulevard.)
posted by mediareport at 7:43 PM on July 4, 2014


It's what I miss about Joel's MST3K, which was rarely about mocking the movie, but instead using it as a jumping off point for daffy impressions, observations, and stream-of-thought connections.
posted by maxsparber at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2014


I'd watched this before, so I skimmed over this thread before rewatching, and I'm glad I did. The idea of the movie as having an "oppressive masculinity" at its center is new to me, and I'm very charmed by it. I just wish I could believe it was deliberate. I don't. In fact, I think most of the better things here -- the sheer weirdness of it that makes you feel that you're in some strange dark dream -- is more happy accident than deliberate.

I think there are a couple of deliberate touches, though:

First, Mary throughout the movie is sort of cold and untouchable. She's not just fed up with men's ill-treatment, she's basically unfriendly. I don't think the woman we see is at all the type to hang out in the car with drag racers. So, I wonder if that's deliberate: if she's supposed to be cold because she's dead.I don't believe this movie is quite up to the social commentary on the state of male/female relations in 1962 America, but I think it may be up to "cold = dead." I had to check that this came before Night of the Living Dead because when she comes up out of the water she looks directly out of that movie. The image must have made an impression on Romero.

Second, I think we're meant to pay more attention to Mary's lack of religious reverence. I think we're supposed to be almost horrified by it. And I wonder if Mary's descent into this limbo is caused by that lack of faith. A good person, or an outright bad one, would have gone quickly in one direction or the other. Someone to whom the church is just a place of business doesn't qualify for an express lane.
posted by tyllwin at 11:49 PM on July 5, 2014


I wish I could say more about it but it's been years since I thought about it, but this movie and Last Year at Marienbad seem so like cousins. I believe others have noticed that
posted by Brainy at 10:18 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can see how it could come across as hokey sometimes. There's ghosts on a bus! That final chase scene pulls some goofy stuff like it's Scooby-Doo; ghosts popping into frame, she runs away, repeat.

But there is also some really great stuff, visually, and the music. If you're in the right frame of mind you can see all that "hokey" stuff as theatrical.

I own this on a DVD of three Ghost Stories, but I barely remember the other two.

I had never noticed that it never shows a cross or a depiction of Jesus in the church. I wonder if it was an attempt to avoid doing the obvious cliche or if it was an act of respect to not use an important Christian symbol for a horror movie.

I'm not sure of the specific identity of the fellow on the stained glass that they focus on, but given the typical way stained glass imagery works, I assume he's witnessing a miracle. The film is only willing to evoke Jesus second-hand. (Or I guess third-hand if he's witnessing a saint perform a miracle.)
posted by RobotHero at 10:42 AM on July 8, 2014


I thought the close-up on the stained glass was Mary wondering whether it was the ghostly figure who had been chasing her, but I suppose there's no evidence for that one way or another.

Oh, also I really loved the shot of her standing in front of the "enjoy salt-water bathing" poster (ironic!). The model in the poster had a strong resemblance to her, too, although knowing what I do about the production it must have just been a coincidence.
posted by whir at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2014


I think a lot of the different feel, that successfully jarring sense that you can't tell what's going to happen now because this doesn't follow the same rules as the other movies you've seen, and the (probably accidental) social commentary that can be observed from our distance, come from the fact that it's such a piece of outsider art.

Carnival of Souls has next to nothing to do with how Hollywood approached the physical act of making a movie or the cultural norms it developed regarding the telling of a story. This is a movie made out in Utah, with a cast of mainly non-actors, by a guy who spent his days making industrial training and educational films in Kansas. (A couple are on the awesome Criterion release of this movie, and they're really a whole other world.) It's practially the Grandma Moses of 1950s-60s horror cinema.
posted by Naberius at 12:30 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Found a neat interview with the writer, John Clifford, from a book called It Came From Horrorwood: Interviews with Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Tradition. It has neat info about the ways the budget affected the writing, and confirmation that the odd lack of catharsis for the main character, mentioned above by whir, was very much intentional:

I decided early on to give the heroine no real sympathy or understanding from any other character. So, for the viewer, there's no relief from her dilemma. There's no catharsis, even, except what the viewer creates for himself. Hardly anybody seems to tumble to that.
posted by mediareport at 11:14 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


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