Friday, March 13, 2009

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Last week I realized that I was seriously lacking in knowledge of horror classics. Sure I've seen the originals of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, and a handful of other big names, but I'm talking about true classics like Nosferatu, Bluebeard, Night of the Living Dead, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, and The Indestructible Man. The answer? Amazon's Horror Classics 50-movie DVD pack.

You may question why I would want to waste my time sitting around watching these ancient B&W films when there is an endless supply of relatively superb movies at my disposal. For me, I enjoy taking a step back and examining the history of things, how things have developed over time. It's like when I put down my Crichton, King, Cook, and Laymon books and started reaching for the Hemingway, Lawrence, Chopin, Poe, and Steinbeck books. Not only does it give you a new appreciation for the development of an art, you just might find that you enjoy some of the classics better.

But, unfortunately, so was not the case with Carnival of Souls.

Why did I pick it? Because it was the first movie of the collection. Will I continue to watch the 50 classics in order? Probably not. What will I do? I will pick and choose from movies I've actually heard of for starters. How much more time am I going to spend doing this interview-soliloquy? This will be the last sentence of it.

The movie follows a woman who walks away from a car crash unscathed as she leaves town and becomes drawn to an abandoned carnival. At roughly 80 minutes, I spent the first 40 minutes trying to ignore the acting, which reminded me of a middle school play I once saw, and focus on the story. The only real horror element besides muddled, clanging organ music was a guy wearing heavy mascara who shows up sporadically.

There was one cool scene where the lead is out shopping and suddenly no one can hear or see her. Conversely, she can see but not hear everyone else. I sat up and thought to myself, am I seeing the first Sixth Sense? Are all these people in this town dead? Is she dead? So, for the first time my interest is peaked, but then the action takes a lunch break and my eyes get heavy.

Next thing I knew I was waking up to a multitude (actually, it was more like 15) of these mascara freaks chasing the lead around the abandoned carnival. I glanced at the DVD display and realized that the movie had only minutes to go, so I was just in time for the climatic ending. I watched as the freaks, along with Mr. Sporadic Appearance, ran the lead down and smothered her. The movie cuts to the priest who employed her, the doctor who consulted her, and a police officer examining the scene of her disappearance. They can see her footprints in the sand, but they stop abruptly and she is nowhere to be seen. Finally, the movie cuts back to the scene of the car crash. The car is pulled out of the water and our lead is inside and dead.

I was right! She was actually dead the whole time. But I still wondered if everyone in the town she visited during her purgatory truly existed or not. I went back and watched the chunk I slept through, hoping to get more story, but all I got was this dreadful character who didn't realize she wasn't interested in his feeble attempts to sleep with her. He was the epitome of guys who cause women to entertain the idea of (a) other women, or (b) remaining single indefinitely.

I'm not sure if it's because I fell asleep or not, but the plot did seem to fall apart at times, and the acting made the movie seem more like an episode of Hee Haw than a horror movie. It's probably more fitting for a film student.

The conclusion: I've read pop-up books more engrossing than this but not nearly as original for the time. Post your thoughts on this movie and fill in the holes for me.


  1. Im glad to see that someone else out there is taking the time to go through those movie packs as well, I got Horror Classics and Chilling Classics B1G1F on DeepDiscount and I have systematically been going through them to expand my scope as well, since I am the last person to say Im well read in terms of the classics. I catch so much shit for owning those sets, everyone claims they are collection 'filler,' but those same people likely dont spend the time actually WATCHING any of the films in the sets. I have every intention of watching every single title, so now I finally have someone to comment with!

    Be sure to check out The Killer Shrews in all its terrible glory, that was a real winner. I also enjoyed The Screaming Skull, and Metropolis is one of the single most AMAZING films I have ever seen. I have your back man, power through and watch um all!!

  2. I definitely plan to watch them all! Good to know I'm not alone either.

    Have you seen Carnival of Souls yet?

  3. Thankfully it was in the beginning of the pack so I didnt get ansy and jump ahead, but I liked it, very atmospheric and surreal, but I cant claim to understand the whole thing. If you put it in perspective considering the other films of the time (as you will see if you sit down and watch them all), it was way ahead of its time and much better than the typical 60s shlock!