Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey) made me want to race up two flights of stairs, leap into bed fully dressed, and attempt to fall asleep with the lights on. It's not a scary movie, per se. No terrifying monsters or gross-out gore. But Carnival of Souls is so insidiously creepy that unease and dread build up in the pit of your stomach, unnoticed at first, then more and more discomfiting, until when the movie's over the only respite is the sweet release of sleep and the desperate hope that morning's light will arrive quickly. Or maybe I'm projecting.
|For real though, this is some creepy shit.|
There's not a long going on in Carnival of Souls, but there's a lot going for it. The gorgeous organ score hearkens back to Hammer Horror, despite its church-organ veneer of respectability. The lighting's also solid: when Mary takes a stroll beneath the carnival boardwalk, a stark lattice of light and shadow paints itself across her face, rendering her good looks otherworldly. And this may be a little pretentious, but the way Mary experiences her own death -- becoming invisible to the people around her, unable to hear their voices -- is borrowed straight from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Hardly standard zombie-movie fodder.
I give Carnival of Souls a 3/5. Okay, so it's a glorified Twilight Zone episode in which almost nothing actually happens, which provides no satisfying explanation for its action (and not much action, as far as that goes). But if you're into atmosphere, you'll dig it, and if you know your cult cinema, you'll appreciate what the movie borrows from Bergman -- and how much David Lynch later stole. So yeah, watch it. Just leave the lights on.
|She's never going to get that dress clean.|