Written by: John Clifford
Directed by: Herk Harvey
Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Sydney Berger, Frances Fest, Cari Conboy
Released by: Rhino
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: If you’re interested, rent the Criterion version.
Indulging in an impromptu drag race, a bunch of kids drive their car into the river. The only survivor is Mary Henry (Hilligoss), a student of the organ (the instrument, mind you). After the accident, she’s not the same person. This is understandable because of the accident…but then she starts seeing a zombie all over the place. Then people start to act if she doesn’t exist. Maybe it can be explained psychologically, but then she is also drawn to a condemned amusement park. With her fear and paranoia mounting, is Mary to suffer a worse fate than going insane?
[ad#longpost]According to the research I’ve done regarding Carnival of Souls, a lot of what I’ve read talks about the flick’s cult status and how brilliant it’s supposed to be. Personally, I think The Emperor Is Buck Naked. If you edited about two-thirds of the film out, you might get a passable episode of Tales From The Darkside. By the time you get to the end of Mary running around and dodging the ghouls, I was ecstatic when they caught up with her.
This movie must be given a certain amount of slack, however. It was made on the cheap, so you can’t rely on quality of filming and whatnot, but still–acting and effects couldn’t bolster this script. And probably the audience didn’t have over forty years of pop culture experience to be able to see the conclusion from a couple of light years away. With ‘independent’ movies like this, you either have brilliant writing and/or performances to make people forget the near-zero production value or use innovation and creatively to stretch your budget to give the movie a professional look. This has neither. I’m sorry, but I think all you people out there who think this film is a classic need your critical judgment readjusted.
The transfer to disc by Rhino Home Video is abysmal. All the pops, scratches, and distortions from the print are still present on the disc. Of course, this could give the experience of watching it in the conditions of a midnight showing in an old movie house. Frankly, I want a clean viewing if I’m going to shell out the money to buy the DVD. The lack of features doesn’t help to make Carnival of Souls more attractive. If you must check it out, find the Criterion release and avoid this one.