Carnival of Souls
Release Year: 1962
Director: Herk Harvey
Writer: John Clifford
Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt, Tom McGinnis, Herk Harvey
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #329, week 43 2020
After a traumatic car accident in which her friends are killed, organist Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) moves to a new town where she is drawn to an abandoned carnival.
Heck Harvey’s only feature film is an oddity in the best sense of the word. Mesmering, with a creepy and dream-like atmosphere throughout, Carnival of Souls feels more than anything like a very long Twilight Zone episode with an art house twist. Hilligoss (House of the Living Corpse, 1964) is, despite her very limited experience, the only professional actor in the film. The remaining cast are mostly ordinary people and the director himself as the mysterious white faced man, and needless to say, great acting isn’t the film’s strong side. Hilligoss is good though, and her portrayal of Mary as a woman caught in a nightmare she can’t get out of is convincing. The story is very simple, light on dialogue, and if you are looking for an explanation and resolution at the end, you’ll probably be disappointed. This just isn’t that sort of a film. Carnival of Souls really feels like one of a kind, and a landmark in psychological horror, which deserves to be better known. Highly recommended.
The story was inspired by The Twilight Zone episode “The Hitch-Hiker” (1960).
Some scenes in the movie are tinted in a way similar to silent films. Whenever Mary (Candace Hilligoss) is in one of her altered mental states, the picture has a faint cyan tint, while all the “real” scenes are in pure black-and-white. Later in the film, the tinted segments also have distorted sound and picture.
The only feature length film of Herk Harvey, who shot the film in three weeks with a crew consisting of himself and five others.
Copyright: public domain.