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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Film of Pure Genius
Carnival of Souls is a perfect example of how a film can be brilliant and entertaining without a big budget. Originally made for just $33,000 in 1962, you would never guess viewing this film that it was a low budget independent film. The creative energy of those that made this film is rather startling. The director, the screenwriter, musical score writer, and the actors...
Published on Dec 1 2011 by Moodywoody

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3.0 out of 5 stars Silence is golden, but my eyes still see
The film starts with a racy scene. Two cars racing over the bridge and one vehicle falls in to a swift river. Three hours later, a dirty Mary surfaces. As A recent "soul" survivor, (maybe), Mary (Candice Hilligoss) plays with other peoples organs. The bulk of the movie is listing to cheap organic sounds as Mary runs around spooked.

Soon Mary believes a man...
Published on Sept. 20 2010 by bernie


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In and around itself, it was creepy..., July 22 2008
By 
G. Motychko "Miss Nay-Sayer" (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Okay, well, if you've read the title you basically know what I'm going to start out with.

I think I've watched this movie the equivalent of 40 times, and each time I see the opening title, terror runs through my spine. Why? Because this movie doesn't have to have anything happen, and it's creepy. Eerie. I mean, the music, the actors, the setting, everything makes this movie creepy, and the only shocking thing was the man with eye-makeup. I could watch this movie 100 times and still be apprehensive about turning off the light at night... it's just the atmosphere of this movie!

Anyone & everyone, please 'add to cart' right now! I am telling you that you won't regret it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They go around..., Feb. 22 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls [Import] (DVD)
Some brilliant directors only make a few movies. Herk Harvey made over four hundred -- but sadly, he only brought his astounding talents into one non-educational movie.

That one brilliant movie is cult horror flick "Carnival of Souls," a nightmarish tale of a young woman who is lingering on in the world of the living -- and is pursued by the dead. Made for a piddling seventeen thousand dollars, this little gem is as eerie now as it was in the 1960s.

Three young women decide to drag race a car of young men -- and their car goes off a bridge into the river. Only Mary (Candace Hilligoss) staggers out of the water, seemingly undisturbed by the accident. The next day she travels to Utah for her new job as a church organist, but on the trip she keeps seeing a grinning, corpselike man watching her from the road.

Mary tries to distract herself with shopping, dodging her lecherous neighbor, and playing the organ. But she keeps seeing the corpse-man), having strange moments where nobody can see or ear her, and also finds herself drawn to a run-down former carnival pavilion. As the dead close in on her, Mary runs from them... but she can't escape from them forever.

A simple plot, but Herk Harvey handles it with brilliant skill. There's a goofy moment here or there -- at one point Mary turns around to shriek into the camera lens. But most of the time, Harvey keeps the atmosphere piling on, with relatively little dialogue (the most memorable lines are usually shrieked ones like "I don't want to be alone!").

In short, Harvey had the ability to inspire something a lot rarer than fear or shocks -- dread. Mary's confusion, fear and denial are almost palpable as she wanders through the town. By the climax, it has transformed into a sort of nightmarish maze that Mary can just run through, with the dead people just a few steps behind her. And there's that creepy organ music all the time.

The ending is not so much a twist as the inevitable answer to all the bizarre events that came before it -- and it's a brilliant, bittersweet ending. It was also the ending that has inspired creepy horror movies ever since. Suddenly the "invisibility" moments and the dead faces make perfect sense, and we understand what it is that Mary is really running from.

Mary is also not your typical early-sixties heroine -- she's sharp-tongued ("Thank you, but I'm NEVER coming back here") and kind of spinsterish by nature. What's more, she is completely detached from everyone around her, since she is not meant to be in the world of the living. Hilligoss (who only made one other movie) is absolutely amazing here, with her distant attitude and frightened eyes.

This version doesn't have the loads of extras the Criterion one has. But it does have a well-colorized version, as well as the original black-and-white. The icing on the cake: Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 does the commentary, which is the same sort of mockery they had for other such movies.

Brilliant and creepy, "Carnival of Souls" is a deserving cult classic. It's a shame that Herk Harvey never made another horror flick, but at least we have this one.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Silence is golden, but my eyes still see, Sept. 20 2010
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
The film starts with a racy scene. Two cars racing over the bridge and one vehicle falls in to a swift river. Three hours later, a dirty Mary surfaces. As A recent "soul" survivor, (maybe), Mary (Candice Hilligoss) plays with other peoples organs. The bulk of the movie is listing to cheap organic sounds as Mary runs around spooked.

Soon Mary believes a man (Herk Harvey, son of Everett and Minnie R. Prewitt Harvey) in shabby zombie make-up is perusing her. She does not mind flirting with cheap drunks, but draws the line at zombies. A ghost of a carnival pavilion by the local lake insidiously draws her to it. She has no clue as to what is happening; but we figured it out when she came out dripping wet and with the movie title.

The film is a bit dated. The dialog is stilted and unnatural; of course, this could be on purpose, as Mary is stilted and unnatural. So what is the excuse for the other so-called actors?

We do get some mystery and intrigue and a new meaning to "The wet head is dead".

Dementia 13
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4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and Creepy cult classic comes to DVD!!!, July 16 2004
By 
Christian Lehrer "Christian Lehrer" (Bay Point, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Carnival of Souls was made on a shoe-string budget by industrial filmmaker Herk Harvey and stars the enigmatic and beautiful Candace Hilligoss as the lead character who manages to be constantly isolated from everyone around her. There are so many excellent transitions and shots in the movie it was obvious that who ever put it together had been an excellent film editior at the very least. As the film has been extensively reviewed here I want to focus on the DVD releases. Aside from the original cut of the film, 82 minutes, there where several prints that had been trimmed down both by the director and perhaps for TV although I have seen the complete film on cable as well as edited versions. The Image "movie-only" release (by the way Image also co-produced the Criterion Collection release) has the complete version of the movie and best print that I have seen. There is an active menu with some of the spooky organ music with icons for chapters and the films trailer. At first I thought the icon for "recommendations" was just a link to a one page marketing promo. However, if you click on the title boxes you get a trailer for each of the other Image releases shown. Quite a nice little "Easter Egg"!
I am glad I have the other versions as well because I think the edited prints are also interesting. The Alpha Video version actually has a slightly higher bit rate than the Image edition and only a tiny amount of pixelization here and there detracts from a very sharp picture, it clocks in at 77 minutes and is a great bargain. The Diamond DVD release has an identical running time, but a lower bit rate and still some pixelization in a couple of scenes. However considering that you get a copy of 1960's "Horror Hotel" with Christopher Lee included it is a great buy for just a few bucks. Curiously, the Diamond edition "Carnival of Souls/"Horror Hotel" is supposedly out of print yet I found a copy in a store recently and got another new copy on-line for my little brother's collection. Goodtimes has released "Carnival of Souls" with a high bit rate and sharp picture but a few more skips and pops. Also, the running time is the shortest, 75 minutes, as it cuts out a couple more scenes such as when Candace Hilligoss stops for gas and directions entering Salt Lake City. However, my Goodtimes edition is a two sided disc with "Carnival" on one side and a decent print of "Night of the Living Dead" on the other. For those of you who don't like two sided discs, Goodtimes has also released both films seperately for just a few bucks each. Criterion Collection has released the utlimate edition with two cuts of the film and loads of extras including a commentary. However, it you are on a budget you do have other options. So make some popcorn and enjoy the show. Thanks, CAL
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4.0 out of 5 stars "I'm not taking vows. I just play the organ.", June 9 2004
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Carnival of Souls is the horror movie Albert Camus might have made. It's a lot like George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead - - black and white, low-budget, a simple horror story that's really about human beings' isolation in their own skins.
The acting ensemble in Romero's film is consistently better, but Carnival of Souls only has one real character, and Candace Hilligoss as Mary is very good. It's probably only her performance that has kept this movie around for over forty years.
It's 1962 in a small town, and two young guys in a hot rod and three young women in another car are drag racing. They get to the bridge outside of town, finally going fast enough to feel alive when . . .
. . . Mary crawls out of the river, covered in mud, the only female survivor. The other two girls paid the price for giving in to the thrill of the boys' challenge.
Seemingly unaffected (almost in the clinical sense of being without affect), Mary follows her plan to go to another small town where she's been hired as a church organist. She doesn't believe in the church, though; she's a musician and playing the organ is just a job.
Mary's drive to her new town is the scariest bit of filmmaking I've seen in a long time.
Trying to settle into her new life, Mary starts to crack up. Besides seeing an apparition connected to an old ruined carnival, Mary is suddenly unable to hear the people around her.
Three men say they want to help her - - a would-be boyfriend who's only interested in sex and leaves her when she lets her despair show, a doctor who violently shakes her and orders her to his office for his expert help, and the minister she works for who fires her when something possesses her and she "profanes" his church with carnival music. Love, science, and God all fail her.
If Mary had only been able to hang on for five or ten years, maybe she would have found more satisfying work, or support from other women, or been stronger herself. In 1962 Mary felt the nothingness eating her alive, but she couldn't see a way out in time. She lost the race.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a great cult classic!, May 14 2004
By 
Ted "Ted" (Pennsylvania, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film
This film is one of the best known of classic horror films of th early 1960's. This film has hitchcockian elements and even can remind one of Shyamalan's film, "The Sixth Sense"
The story follows a young Kansas woman who survives a tracic car accident, she later moves to Salt Lake City Utah to be a church orgainist (at a non-Mormon chruch.) While driving there, she passes the old Saltair resort, recently abandoned. She feels an overwhelming compulsion to go closer but does not yet do so. She later has visions of a man who seems to be caling her to the resort. Later she enters an unusual state of mind where noone else can see or hear her. I don't want to say anything else as it would be a spoiler. The movie is filmed on location at the Saltair pavilion. At the time it held the largest indoor ballroom ever built. It since was destroyed by fire but another was built and later flooded.
The film has many special features.
2 versions of the film. The theatrical version and the Director's cut. The director's cut has optional partial length audio interviews with some of the film crew.
Disc 1 has
An illustrated history of the Saltair resort on the lake shore. Theatrical trailer, Outtakes of filming, a vidoe update on filming locations, and a documentary on the 1989 reunion of cast & crew.
Disc 2 has
Interviews with members of the cast and crew, and an Essay on the film's production comapny, Centron.
It also has 5 short documentary films made by the movie's production company Centron.
Star 34; A docudrama about tourism in Kansas
Signals: Read 'em or Weep; a saftey film for the Caterpillar Tractor company
To Touch a Child; a documentary about the school system in Flint Michigan.
Jamaica, Hati, and the Lesser Antilles; a documentary film on the afforementioned countries.
Korea: Overview; a documentary film on Korean culture.
This DVD set was one of the most comprehensive released by Criterion at the time of it's release.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Small Cost, Big Atmosphere, March 29 2004
By 
Tony R. Tucker (Crewe, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Even being a fan of horror films, I never knew about this great film until the mid-90's. The Sci-Fi Channel was having nightly film festivals in October leading up to Halloween and when I saw the promo for Carnival of Souls, it gave me chills. The next night I watched (and taped) it, and have viewed it many, many times since.
Nothing conveys terror like atmosphere and things barely seen. Director Herk Harvey, whose previous film experience was almost entirely in industrial films, captured these important aspects perfectly. In the supplemental materials on the Criterion DVD, he explains how the sight of the old Salt Lake bath house became the base for this film. When you see the old bath house, it is at a distance at first, in the evening, draped in shadows. You wonder "What is in there? Is it empty? Or could something else be there that shouldn't be?"
In the film, Mary Henry (played by Candace Hilligoss) is the sole survivor of an auto accident. Afterwards she leaves Kansas to take a job in Salt Lake City, Utah. As she nears Salt Lake, she sees, in the distance, the shadowy hulk of an old pavilion on the lakeshore. She begins seeing images of a pale faced man (played by director Harvey) appearing and disappearing outside her car, in her boarding house, outside her window, etc. The film deals with her attempts to come to terms with this vision, her sanity, her brush with death, and what role the old building (a former bath house, carnival, and dance hall) has to do with it all.
The film looks crisp and clear, even in night scenes. No surprise, also, that it has an industrial film feel to it at times. The acting is good, but not great. Then again the occasional stiffness of some characters adds to Mary Henry's feeling of disconnect with the living world. The townspeople have barely more life in them than the pale "zombies" that rise from the lake. Mary's job as a church organist allows for a soundtrack full of pipe organ music that morphs from inspirational to horrific. It is quite effective and adds to the already dreamlike quality that oozes from the film.
The Criterion DVD comes with 2 discs including the original director's cut and the theatrical versions. Extras include a booklet, a photo gallery and history of the bath house, and a panel interview at a convention featuring Herk Harvey (wearing his ghostly make-up no less!), Candace Hilligoss, and Sidney Berger, who played Mary Henry's (...) drunken neighbor.
People spend millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars trying to scare you, and almost always fail. Carnival of Souls succeeds and on a tiny budget. There is a reason that this small film from 1962 is still a cult favorite today. It works. It's scary. It will creep you out. Buy it, rent it, just watch it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars sacred or profane; it all sounds like organ music to me, March 20 2004
By 
Nate Volkerding (Kansas City, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Carnival of Souls is a movie made, apparently, almost on a whim by two men who never made another feature film and stars an actress who was only in one other minor movie. With that sort of background, the rather unique finished product is maybe not so surprising.What is very surprising is that the movie turned out as well as it did.
Some of the other reviews have compared it to the twilight zone, and that is maybe the closest thing. They are from the same time period and have overlapping themes. The plotting for Carnival, though, is loose and leaves you wondering if there was a point -something you could almost never say about the twilight zone. Is it, like another reviewer stated, a hyper literal portrayal of a woman rejecting all the things that make life worth while and becoming an actual lost soul? I don't know that the movie lets us know enough about Mary to come to that conclusion. (Maybe it's all just a dramatized depiction of an undead beauracrat correcting a paperwork mistake.)
Plot, I don't think, is what this movie should stand or fall on.
Atmosphere seemed to take precedence with the film's creators(the director, Herk Harvey, told his writer, John Clifford, that he didn't care what he wrote about, except that he wanted to make a movie that had dead people dancing under the Saltair dome). From this point of view, I think, the movie is very successful. Carnival effectivly creates a tone of strangeness and dread that is sustained almost throughout it's length. It reminded me much more of the silent film, Nosferatu, than any modern horror movie (the nearly omnipresent pipe organ score might have something to do with that).
Candace Hilligloss, who plays the main character, Mary, does an excellent job in her role as a brittle, eccentric young woman, right down to the hand and body movements. She also has the perfect looks for the part; doe eyed and blond, with long, pale hands that look like they were made for playing music (a church pipe organ, in this instance). It's a pity she wasn't in more movies (she, rather admirably, retired from films to raise her children). Another good actor who went on to do really nothing else on the big screen, Sidney Berger, has the only other very important speaking role in the film. He's also does quite well in a very unsympathetic part as Mary's slimy neighbor.
There's one scene in this movie that really sticks in mind; the one where Mary visits the deserted interior of Saltair for the
first time. The scene has no real action, aside from Mary just walking around, but it's effect is quite eery ( it concludes in an utterly sinister shot, which may possibly have been what Peter Jackson was thinking of in the dead marshes sequence of The Two Towers). What I believe this scene trades on is the strangeness, the unwholesome sensation that comes of being alone in a large, festive, public place. A personal experience of mine which parallels this scene -I'm certain it's part of why this movie had such an effect on me- is my memory of walking around the desserted ruins of the massive, domed Baden Springs luxury resort in Indiana (it's since been gloriously restored, apparently) when I was a kid back in the 80's. I've never quite forgotten the lonely and desolate sensation it inspired.
Having said all that, I don't believe it's a perfect movie by any means. There's bad acting from bit players, at least a few near camp moments, mostly at the beginning (I was nearly expecting, was almost afraid, that the deadly drag race at the start of the movie would veer into a wooden PSA from some beefy sheriff). I think how much of an impact this movie has on you will depend on when you watch it, who you watch it with (watch it alone), and whether you will allow yourself to get caught up in it's mood. There's no real violence, nothing that will involuntarily repulse you. If you want to give it the MST3K treatment, parts of the movie will certainly lend itself to that, or if you sit in front of the television, cross your arms and determine not to let this film get to you, then I think you will very probably stand up unfazed. Speaking personally, I think there are a number of things that I'll never quite look at again in the same light, after seeing this picture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best For Those On A Budget, Jan. 24 2004
By 
T. Dissinger "kagami101" (Jacksonville, AL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
The video transfer on this Alpha Video release is surprisingly good. This film is essential to your film collection and if you are on a budget this is the one to get. No bells and whistles, but you can't beat it for under $8.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sinister Stuff, Jan. 7 2004
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Fantastic, if you are looking for a spooky film to watch with selected gothic company non come more highly recomened than this.
Your spine will tingle from reckless opening to mind bending climax.
This film is beatifully atmospheric filled with church organ music that would make La,Vey proud.
Open some wine and allow youself to descend into sunny madness.
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Carnival of Souls [Import]
Carnival of Souls [Import] by n/a (DVD - 2005)
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