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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carnival of Souls: 1962

    We are moving on into our first semi-psychological horror film-,"Carnival of Souls".  It happens to be a low budget film made in 1962 directed by Herk Harvey.  In fact, Herk Harvey also produced it too.  It was released for the purpose of being a B-movie and because of this it wasn't widely known.  But as time went on, it was found and is to this day a cult classic.  

   Now, before I begin, I want to say that I will be going into further detail about the plot and also incorporate my opinion within this review.  With that out of the way, lets begin.  The first scene opens with two cars having a street race.  One car made up of women, the other made up of men.  They both speed past a sign reading:  ROAD UNDER CONST.  TRAVEL AT YOUR OWN RISK.  When they reach a bridge, the cars are side by side until the white car made up of women tumbles over the side.  

   You could argue that this is symbolic, but I'm not willing to go that far.  The title shows as the car sinks below the murky depths of the lake, and the effect making the title appear really shows that this film sets itself up for being a B-movie.  Many people came by the bridge to investigate the tragedy, as well as a few policemen.  One of the civilians say that, since they've been waiting for three hours, and because of that they should call off the search(or waiting, because the majority weren't doing anything to help).  And then, Mary Henry, one of the women from the car walks up from the water and onto the shore...  Now, let me remind you that she, and everyone else in that car fell off the bridge three hours ago!  Are they saying that this women was just sitting in the front seat....under water, mind you.....for three hours?!  Well, maybe Herk Harvey set this up as a mystery.  

   So when the women gets out of the water she's taken to her car where she drives to an unknown building.  Here many people are doing all kinds of different jobs.  We see that she is playing an organ, and it is in fact the same organ music that is played in the movie,  both of which were composed by Gene Moore.  We find that Mary is practicing for a job at a church.  One of the men, supposedly working at the building suspects that there may be something wrong with Mary, and we find out too, that she has lost her soul.  

   She does a decent job at showing no emotion, at least until the mystery man shows up when the minister and her drive to an abandoned carnival.  Ill have to admit that an abandoned carnival is pretty scary, besides the fact that I'm afraid of clowns.  Very afraid.  They try to conceal the fact that the actress playing Mary cant play the organ.... they don't do a good job of it.  Its as if they just told her to pound the keys for a certain amount of time.  It also seems like she hasn't heard the music that she's supposed to act like she's playing.  

   After a look at the abandoned carnival, Mary Henry checks into her hotel.  She later meets a man named John Linden, who we later find out is a peeping tom, which is great and all but...what about the mystery stalker?  Well, he shows up after Mr. Linden leaves when Mary turns him down after asking her out on a date.  You know... I'm beginning to question this guy.  What are his motives?  Is he real?  Sometimes it seems that he is and other times he's floating with only his head showing, but that's only to spook people while their in their cars.  I guess it wouldn't be fair for him to run along-side the car, so I guess if you could, floating would be the best option.  

   Okay, if you look at the scene when Mr. Linden comes back to meet marry the next morning, you'll find that something very strange is happening.  While their talking Mary seems to become more interested in Mr. Linden more and more....but he's giving off all the wrong signals!  Mary's character sets herself up to be a intelligent, normal, human being.... that's being chased by a ghost but that's besides the point.  However you don't need to tell me that I'm jumping to conclusions, I am completely aware of what I write....most of the time.  After Mr. Linden's visit, Mary goes shopping.  Now, when my dad and I went shopping sometimes, we would go past the dressing rooms, and we would hear this beeping noise. This was incredibly annoying and it isn't any different for this film.  Nothing is taken away from the film, and it's a personal pet peeve of mine, but I cant be the only one that has this problem.  Anyway, back to the film.  

   Finally after at least ten minuets of anything but horror, Mary finds that nobody notices her and she cant hear them.  I'm so glad to see something surreal that I don't care if a hundred things are done wrong in this shot, and thankfully, that's not the case. I like how you can only hear the things that Mary is doing and that everything else is muted.  Well, that is until she touches a tree, then she can hear fine and everything goes back to normal.  So I guess this is as if she's moving back and forth from existence.  Wow, that sounds a whole lot better!  Okay, I forgive the randomness of that scene. 

   So after her shock she meets a doctor and she tells him about her predicament.  The doctor concludes that she had been imagining the whole thing.  What?!  It doesn't take a doctor to figure out something like that!  Anybody could have come to that conclusion!   But then I guess nobody really knows for sure until they've seen the rest of this.  So Mary decides that she is going to get rid of her imagination once and for all.  She does this by driving to the abandoned circus.  I'm not sure I understand her logic behind this.  

   She wanders about the circus (and the music could have been a little bit creepier but it was still pretty eerie) until she comes across a lake, where she also finds, you guessed it, the mystery man!  We see that he's sleeping under water..... and then Mary leaves.  Well that was a let down!  they could of had him do something to scare us, like rise slowly from the water, then Mary would see him, he would open his eyes, zoom in shot on the eyes, she screams and runs away, end scene!  It could have picked up directly where it left off and nothing would change the next scene, its perfect.  

  The mystery man poses no real threat to her as it is, you might as well have him try to freak her out!  So, after, we cut to her talking with Mr. Linden back at the hotel.  He asks her out again and she finally accepts.  We cut to Mary back at the church, and I swear that I did not see this before hand when I described what I wanted to happen in the abandoned circus.  I get my wish, to some extent.  You'll have to see for yourself.  It totally puts a new twist on things and is very satisfying!  My rating for this film just went up 25%!  It becomes so much more like a psychological horror that this measly three minuets and forty seconds makes up for everything bad in this movie! (Most of it)  

   So because of Mary Henry's "drug trip", the minister finds her and fires her for playing sacrilegious clown music (just go with it).  The next scene, we find Mr. Linden and Mary at a club, which happens to be the quietest club in the world.  We also see that Mr. Linden drinks allot.  However I do understand what their  trying to get at in this scene.  Mary doesn't want to be alone.  The only person that's around her is Mr. Linden, who happens to be a bit of a jerk.  Mary is forced to be in contact with people she doesn't like, because when she's alone, she goes insane.  She is forced to taste the cruel side of her life that is reality, and to walk away from reality leads to insanity.  It stresses the horror of being trapped within your own subconscious.  

  Okay I'm straying from the film, lets continue.  Drunken Mr. Linden and Mary go back to the apartment, where Mr. Linden starts to use Mary's loneliness to his advantage.  I don't understand why she doesn't just get somebody else to stay with her.  Instead she gets this guy!  Suddenly, Mary starts to get more hallucinations and spooks Mr. Linden out of her room.  I must admit that the part that follows is very scary.  

   We cut to after her mental breakdown, where we hear from the doctor that Mary is going to leave town as soon as possible. After leaving, Mary has trouble with her car and brings it into the mechanic.  She chooses to stay in the car and finds later that it was a good idea to do so because, look who decides to show up.  Do I even need to tell you who?  Oh, I do?  Jeez!  I though you guys would have caught on by now!  The mystery guy!  The encounter only lasts a few seconds, because, like sensible person, Mary leaves the car and runs into a bus station.  Mary finds once again that she doesn't exist, but tries anyway to talk to someone.  I'm beginning to see a pattern.  Its like Mary has has a case of S.N.E.D.  Spontaneous-non-existence-disorder.  Now I'm not going to tell you anything further than this.  You'll have to see for yourself.  

In Conclusion:  I am aware that this review did go a little longer than I wanted to.  Okay, so I wrote 1,243 more words than I did in my last review, but it was a review none the less.  I'll try to work on my summarizing.  Anyway, this was..... boring.  Granted, it did have a few frightening moments that made up for most of the wrong things that happened prior to it, but the climax isn't worth it.  I don't think that you should take everything too seriously while watching.  It did however have a lot of heavy psychological imagery that worked in its favor, but most times nothing was going on that we really cared about, and in this way we also didn't care about Mary.  The climax is a bit unsatisfying, and the actors were close to if not already sub-par.  I was also a little upset that they didn't really incorporate the abandoned carnival.  There was a lot of potential, and if there were more funds for Herk Harvey, I'll bet he could have tried a better approach. Sorry if this became boring to read, I'll go back to the basics next review.  If your curious to find out about the climax, watch the full movie of, "Carnival of Souls" at the bottom of this review.  Thank you.

3 and a half stars

Live the life surreal,

Next Review:  The Brain That wouldn't Die 1962 


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