Carnival of Souls (1962 film)

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Carnival of Souls (1962), AKA Corridors of Evil; a poorly-received remake was also made (1998)

Summary

"She was a stranger among the living!" After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival pavilion.

Details

Images from Carnival of Souls (1962 film)...
  • Release Date: 1962
  • Country/Language: US, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror ("zombie" film)
  • Setting: 1950s or 1960s small-town USA Kansas and Utah
  • Runtime: 1 hr 18 min
  • Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger
  • Director: Herk Harvey
  • Writer: John Clifford
  • Producer/Production Co: Harcourt Productions
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • View Introduction by Director Herk Harvey: (link)
  • View Film: (link), (link) (appears to be in the public domain in the U.S.)
  • Film Website - Official Site for Actress Candace Hilligoss: (link)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: Approved (equivalent to a PG or perhaps a PG-13 for very mild Violence and very mild Adult Content)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; vaguely similar in tone, could be a very loose adaptation)

Could perhaps be considered one of the earliest examples of a "living dead/zombie" movie, with the main character tormented by ghouls. Might be (very) loosely compared to "Shadow Over Innsmouth (fiction)", with a gang of very cheerful-looking ghouls tormenting a girl in an atmospherically decaying carnival pavilion taking the place of Lovecraft's fish-men in an atmospherically decaying fishing village tormenting a guy, with both stories ending on a comparable twist. Ultimately, I suspect Lovecraft would approve....

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Video Review by Mary Lambert on Trailers from Hell (link)
  • Orphaned Entertainment Podcast, Episode 17: Carnival of Souls (link)
  • Kindertrauma (link) - "Carnival of Souls is a beautiful film; it’s just plain cinematic poetry."
  • David Becker at the 2500 Movies Challenge, (link) - "...This visual style, combined with a handful of memorable scenes... bring an intensely disturbing air to Carnival of Souls, a feeling of dread that continues to grow right up to the film's creepy conclusion...."
  • Nate Decker at Million Monkey Review, (link) - "...In the final analysis, Carnival of Souls was unexpected and (seriously damn) spooky in 1962, and, in my opinion, has aged pretty well in the fifty years since then...." "...Despite its limited budget and unknown actors, this movie was light-years ahead of most of the b-movies MMT reviews... so go ahead and watch this movie, it's well worth your time...."
  • Richard Schieb at the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Review, (link) - (4.5/5 Stars) "...There is very much a sense at points throughout the film of a curtain of the otherworldly falling down across the everyday for a few moments and then lifting again... the slow accumulation of shocks – the mysterious The Man and his eerie reappearances and the dream-like obsession that Candace Hilligoss develops with the pavilion – all mounts to a genuinely unearthly mood...."
  • Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Reviews and Ramblings, (link) - "This is one of my favorites, and one I’m capable of watching again and again; it is one of the saddest, most moving, and most beautiful horror movies ever made."

Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

The lone "survivor" of a car accident in small-town Kansas packs up for a fresh start as a church organist in Utah, where she realizes she has lost all connection with humanity and finds only coldness and distance in a more spiritual world. Along the way, she begins seeing a ghoulish and frightening figure lurking nearby, experiences upsetting and mysterious periods of silence in which the girl completely loses contact with the physical world, and becomes obsessed by an abandoned Carnival Pavilion which the minister she works for disapproves of as "off limits" and "forbidden by law". At last, after losing her job with the church for playing "profane" and "obscene" music on the church organ while in a fugue state, and losing her nerve at the increasingly closer and more threatening ghoulish figure and more disturbing periods of lost contact with reality, the girl enters the pavilion, and soon faces a dancing horde of the ghoulish dead and the awful truth: that she did not survive the accident, and she is one of the dead!


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made under the initially miniscule $17,000 budget. This was Herk Harvey's first and only feature film, though he had plenty of experience in filming training and documentary films. Actress Candace Hilligoss' agent refused to represent her any longer after seeing her in this, her first film, and she would retire from acting after shortly after this film was made, starring in only a couple other low-budget films in her short career. The film initially bombed in theaters, but would later gain a cult following and its reputation has improved over the decades: today, it is regarded as a genre classic.
  • Director/writer Herk Harvey thought up the idea of the film after driving past the abandoned Saltair Amusement Park while traveling through Salt Lake City. The amusement park and bathhouse, build with strange Moorish architectural flourishes, had been abandoned after the waters of the lake on which it was built had receded.
  • According to director Herk Harvey, one reel of footage for the film was unfortunately ruined during processing. Harvey said it was a long series of shots that was suppose to take place just before Mary sees the "souls" dancing in the ballroom. In the shots the ghouls were supposed to slowly appear from behind the rotting dock pylons out on the salt flats and slowly walk across the prairie to the ballroom, where they would begin to dance. Sadly, the footage was overexposed during the processing and couldn't be included in the film.
  • In the late 1980s, Candace Hilligoss wrote a treatment for a sequel to 'Carnival of Souls'. She took it to associate Peter Soby Jr. who instead decided to produce a remake of the original film (also called Carnival of Souls (1998)). Hilligoss had no part of the production.


Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes