Oct. 15: Carnival of Souls (1962)
If you need more proof that the best horror often comes from a determined group of outsiders shooting on a shoestring budget in the middle of nowhere, look no further than Carnival of Souls, a creepy flick that uses minimal resources to maximum effect.'a0'a0'a0
Candace Hilligoss plays Mary, one of a group of teenagers that decides to partake of some drag racing on an old country road, despite the plainly displayed '93road closed'94 sign. The car full of people flies off the place where a bridge should be and plunges into the water. Only Mary emerges.
Soon, Mary decides to try to get a fresh start by moving to a small town in Utah to take a job as a church organist. She isn'92t religious, but she needs the job. Despite her best efforts to settle into a normal life, Mary begins to see strange figures that haunt her wherever she goes. There is an abandoned pavilion and amusement park in the town, and Mary is inexplicably drawn there. This may be Utah, but things are still a little too weird for comfort.
The film was directed by Herk Harvey, a lifelong maker of industrial and educational films who only directed this one feature. Still, Harvey'92s on-the-job training on films such as Why Study Home Economics? and Manners in Public served him very well when making this film. Carnival of Souls builds its tension slowly, accumulating dread as it goes along.
This is a film where the entire world it'92s set in seems wrong, just a little bit off. Of course, part of that may result from the fact that nobody involved can act at all, but Harvey and the crew he brought over from his industrial films ladle on the atmosphere through some very striking black-and-white cinematography, a creepy organ score and some inherently spooky locations like the pavilion mentioned above.
The acting may be amateurish, the pace slow and the plot familiar after 45 years of imitators, but this creepy little flick squeezes maximum atmosphere pretty much from sheer force of will. By the way, there'92s a wicked sweet Criterion DVD of the film, but it'92s also currently available at hulu.com. You can see it without even getting up!
If you liked this, then check out:
'97'a0'a0'a0 Repulsion (1965): Roman Polanski'92s psychological horror classic stars Catherine Deneuve as a lonely, sexually repressed young woman who goes slowly insane, in gorgeous black and white, when left alone while her sister goes on vacation.
'97'a0'a0'a0 The Last Man on Earth (1965): More black-and-white creepiness, this is the first film adaptation of Richard Matheson'92s novel I Am Legend, starring Vincent Price as a man alone in a world gone mad. And filled with vampires.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983): More horror at the carnival, albeit with quite a different mood. This adaptation of Ray Bradbury'92s novel concerns two boys who become enthralled when their town is visited by an evil carnival run by Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce).