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5.0 out of 5 stars They go around...
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...
Published on Feb. 22 2007 by E. A Solinas

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Who wrote the box?
A little reminiscent of Ghost Story, this film shows us the tale of a young organist who seems to be the sole survivor of a car crashing into the river. Her life continues as if torn between this world and the one beyond.
This is where the box is misleading. When I watched the movie, I waited for zombies to come after her. I think I better description would be...
Published on April 2 2003 by Jeffrey Leeper


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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A bargain priced surprise of a DVD, Dec 25 2003
By 
Bradley Olson (Bemidji, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This DVD of Carnival of Souls and Horror Hotel features fully restored and remastered prints from the best sources that exist in the US, in the case of Carnival of Souls, the best print that exists, period making this a great bargain priced alternative to the Carnival of Souls Criterion Collection DVD. In the case of Horror Hotel, it was originally released in the UK as "The City of The Dead" and the VCI DVD uses the UK print, but for those that just want to see a version of the movie, such as myself, in excellent picture quality, this will definitely suffice, but purists shold get the VCI DVD. The interactive menu is very gaudy looking and only has 2 scenes in the selection menu per movie, but you can go chapter browsing through the DVD remote anyway for both movies, plus there are bios of the cast, etc. of both movies plus a promo for other Diamond Entertainment DVDs. Highly recommended for those Carnival of Souls and Horror Hotel fans on a tight budget but want quality.
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4.0 out of 5 stars George Romero & Sam Raimi meet Alfred Hitchcock., Dec 23 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
I've bought 6 movies in the past few weeks: Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead, The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, Island of the Dead, Evil Dead II, & Dreamcatcher & this is my favorite, second only to LOTR.
Candace Hilligoss is excellent & why she never became better known is beyond me. She is a far, far better actress than 90% of the rest of the actors & actresses from her era. She's not bad looking either. She only made one other movie - Curse of the Living Corpse. Someone please find me Curse of the Living Corpse I've got to see this woman again.
Carnival of Souls is a link between the horror movies of the 1930s & the 1970-80s. George Romero (Night of the living Dead) & Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead series) owe this movie a hugh debt in my opinion. There's also a scene very similar (to me anyway) to one in LOTR when Frodo & Sam are making their way thru the swamp with Gollem & Frodo looks into the water. This isn't Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street (in my opinion it's much better than either of these) but it is a very good suspenseful, semi-scary movie. 4 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, CANDACE HILLIGOSS??, Oct. 27 2003
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
CARNIVAL OF SOULS is certainly a movie that was WAY ahead of it's time. Released in 1962, it left audiences bewildered, blankly staring ahead. Today, it fits right in! A woman named Mary (the stunning Candace Hilligoss) and her friends decide to drag race with a carload of guys. The girls are forced over the side of a very narrow bridge, plunging into the lake below. Mary rises from the depths, covered in mud, the sole survivor. Or is she? She moves to Utah where she gets a job playing the pipe organ in a church. Slowly, bizarre things start happening. She keeps seeing a sinister looking man (played by director Herk Harvey), first in her car window. Then, all over the place! She also slips in and out of a sort of dream state, wherein no one notices or hears her talking to them. Mary is also obsessed with an abandoned carnival she drove past. The atmosphere grows creepier by the minute! Is she alive? Dead? Somewhere in between? Candace Hilligoss only did one other film in her career (CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE by Del Tenney). In my opinion, this is to hollywood's shame! She is brilliant in SOULS! Buy this classic immediately...
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love you church organist, Sept. 28 2003
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Carnival of Souls aka "Corridors of Evil", is a crowning jewel in American Cinema. Despite the low budget and poor film quality, this 1962 masterpiece stands as a cult more than 40 years after it's release. Candice Hilligoss' fine performance will overwhelm you as she portrays a character caught in a purgatory between life and death. Her beauty alone will strike the viewer in a way few actresses can. Her physical acting, facial gestures, and line delivery will leave you wondering why this woman did not become a household name like Marilyn Monroe or Raquel Welch.
The story is as simple as it is complex. A woman is an innocent passenger in a car that gets into a drag race with some teenage thugs. The result is her car going over a bridge into a fast running, sandy river. As she crawls out of the wreckage covered in mud, the viewer thinks she has survived, but has she?
Ms. Hilligoss' character is a musician, an organist to be exact who takes a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Utah. As she begins her journey she is terrified of images of a phantom of sorts who seems to be seeking her out. Anyone who has driven for an average of twelve hours straight can tell you that driving can take its toll, and the mind can play tricks on a sleepy driver. However, after she checks into her room, she finds the same phantom lurking in the window, then in the hallway. Who is this creature, what does he want, where is he from?
The main point of the film is not horror, but human nature. Are we all alone in this world? Is everyone an island unto themselves. The lesson is thrown upon our character by a minister, a psychologist, and a would be male suitor. They all try to help her in their own way (except the suitor who is only interested in her for a chance to have sex). But our character waves a hand at them all, convinced that she can do it her own way. She is an independent woman who needs no man or companionship; a view that may have gone against society's thinking in 1962.
The male suitor (or 'just your normal guy' as he likes to call himself) is an obnoxious oaf to say the least. His headstrong pursuit of her is only his own selfish desire to have her. He's not an alcoholic he claims, yet he drinks at dawn. He quit college because he doesn't like to learn. This is not an ideal resume for a long term relationship for her or any other woman. When she is truly frightened by the visiting spectre, and she reaches out to him as a last resort for help, he runs. Not wanting to get involved, he was only interested in her for her body and his own sexual desire. Yet another lesson in this film for all the young ladies who care to pay attention.
As the story goes on Candace's soul seems to deteriorate. She slips in and out of reality and a strange sort of parallel world. This dimension looks the same as real life, but she cannot be seen or heard. The department store dressing room for example, shows how the lost spirit must learn that she is no longer of this world, but now belongs in the spirit world, where yet another companion awaits her.
Who is this man that haunts her in visions? We see at the end of the film that they are to be together forever. In the final seen where we see Candace's peek at her after-life. She screams in horror as the ghosts dance eternally as the haunt the carnival. She is finally captured by the ghosts and is spirited away. The police and minister are confused and baffled as her footprints and final body print leads nowhere. The minister gives a knowing look as if he has known all along, but says nothing.
The minister must have known there was something wrong with his new organist when he first met and eventually fired her. She had not the soul of a musician, she only had a knowledge for music. She was told this too by the organ builder in the beginning of the film. When she is possessed in the church and her true musician ship comes out as she plays without control, that is her true spirit, but the misinster fires her for 'blasphony'.
This film cannot be watched once and dismissed. It deserves to be watched over and over again. It is a timeless movie where something seems new every time you watch it. I applaud you 'Carnival of Souls'. One of the greatest movies ever made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Your soul is required Miss Holligoss, Sept. 28 2003
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
Carnival of Souls aka "Corridors of Evil", is a crowning jewel in American Cinema. Despite the low budget and poor film quality, this 1962 masterpiece stands as a cult more than 40 years after it's release. Candice Hilligoss' fine performance will overwhelm you as she portrays a character caught in a purgatory between life and death. Her beauty alone will strike the viewer in a way few actresses can. Her physical acting, facial gestures, and line delivery will leave you wondering why this woman did not become a household name like Marilyn Monroe or Raquel Welch.
The story is as simple as it is complex. A woman is an innocent passenger in a car that gets into a drag race with some teenage thugs. The result is her car going over a bridge into a fast running, sandy river. As she crawls out of the wreckage covered in mud, the viewer thinks she has survived, but has she?
Ms. Hilligoss' character is a musician, an organist to be exact who takes a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Utah. As she begins her journey she is terrified of images of a phantom of sorts who seems to be seeking her out. Anyone who has driven for an average of twelve hours straight can tell you that driving can take its toll, and the mind can play tricks on a sleepy driver. However, after she checks into her room, she finds the same phantom lurking in the window, then in the hallway. Who is this creature, what does he want, where is he from?
The main point of the film is not horror, but human nature. Are we all alone in this world? Is everyone an island unto themselves. The lesson is thrown upon our character by a minister, a psychologist, and a would be male suitor. They all try to help her in their own way (except the suitor who is only interested in her for a chance to have sex). But our character waves a hand at them all, convinced that she can do it her own way. She is an independent woman who needs no man or companionship; a view that may have gone against society's thinking in 1962.
The male suitor (or 'just your normal guy' as he likes to call himself) is an obnoxious oaf to say the least. His headstrong pursuit of her is only his own selfish desire to have her. He's not an alcoholic he claims, yet he drinks at dawn. He quit college because he doesn't like to learn. This is not an ideal resume for a long term relationship for her or any other woman. When she is truly frightened by the visiting spectre, and she reaches out to him as a last resort for help, he runs. Not wanting to get involved, he was only interested in her for her body and his own sexual desire. Yet another lesson in this film for all the young ladies who care to pay attention.
As the story goes on Candace's soul seems to deteriorate. She slips in and out of reality and a strange sort of parallel world. This dimension looks the same as real life, but she cannot be seen or heard. The department store dressing room for example, shows how the lost spirit must learn that she is no longer of this world, but now belongs in the spirit world, where yet another companion awaits her.
Who is this man that haunts her in visions? We see at the end of the film that they are to be together forever. In the final seen where we see Candace's peek at her after-life. She screams in horror as the ghosts dance eternally as the haunt the carnival. She is finally captured by the ghosts and is spirited away. The police and minister are confused and baffled as her footprints and final body print leads nowhere. The minister gives a knowing look as if he has known all along, but says nothing.
The minister must have known there was something wrong with his new organist when he first met and eventually fired her. She had not the soul of a musician, she only had a knowledge for music. She was told this too by the organ builder in the beginning of the film. When she is possessed in the church and her true musician ship comes out as she plays without control, that is her true spirit, but the misinster fires her for 'blasphony'.
This film cannot be watched once and dismissed. It deserves to be watched over and over again. It is a timeless movie where something seems new every time you watch it. I applaud you 'Carnival of Souls'. One of the greatest movies ever made.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Who wrote the box?, April 2 2003
By 
Jeffrey Leeper "kem2070" (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (VHS Tape)
A little reminiscent of Ghost Story, this film shows us the tale of a young organist who seems to be the sole survivor of a car crashing into the river. Her life continues as if torn between this world and the one beyond.
This is where the box is misleading. When I watched the movie, I waited for zombies to come after her. I think I better description would be ghosts since the beings are not material in any way and only she can see them. Since this is an older movie, the special effects are minimal. However, the filmmaker did well with what he had.
Because it is an older movie, the cast seems to really be projecting their voices to ensure they are heard. This gives the movie the feel of being just a movie. At no time will you feel like your are part of the action.
But the film is not bad. If you are a fan of old horror films, then this would be an interesting film. This is a story you can tell around a campfire. For the average viewer, you may want to give this a skip.
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4.0 out of 5 stars IT IS GOING TO SCARE YOU!!, Dec 18 2002
By 
R. Recchia "reck" (blodgett mills, ny) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
BOY, THIS IS ONE SCARY MOVIE!
When I saw this film as a young whippersnapper, it frightened the pants and shirt off of me...leaving me ALMOST naked! In 1990, I bought the vhs tape of this and it was great to see this movie again. It didn't scare me as much when I watched it again, BUT...it still scared me nonetheless. First, however, the film's flaws.
For one, the acting is atrocious and some of the dialogue is pretty bad. And the MR. LINDSEY, the other tenant in the boarding house, is the most annoying character I've encountered in any movie. What a creep this guy is! The actor who plays him does too good of a job potraying him...thank the Lord he never appeared in another movie again! The psychiatrist(or counselor) and the landlady have some very weak lines!
HOWEVER..........
Everything else about this movie is great! The zombies are very frightening, especially that man that the main character keeps seeing...indeed, the zombies may be the best actors in the movie!
CANDACE HILLIGOSS does a very good job in the lead role..she's quite stunning to look at and makes her character more sympathic as the movie goes on.
The movie has a very eerie, TWILIGHT ZONE feel about it and I like that the movie never really explains itself. DAVID LYNCH must have really loved this film. The organ music is very appropriate, tho' it's hard to know when it's being used as background music or when it's actually being heard by the characters in the film.
I highly recommend this movie....
It is going to scare you!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Smart horror film that is enjoyable, Nov. 16 2002
This review is from: Carnival of Souls (DVD)
This 1962 black and white cult classic was directed by Herk Harvey during a 3 week vacation. As the film starts out we learn Mary Henry is the only survivor in a car racing accident. The accident doesn't seem to fade her, and she is off for her new job in another city as an organ player in a church. As she drives to the new town she passes an old deserted carnival. Soon after she begins seeing a man following her everywhere, and has other weird things happen to her. She has nightmares, and becomes very paranoid. A doctor thinks all this is a result of emotional trauma from the crash. She doesn't think so. She believes her answer is at the carnival and she goes there to find out.
This film is amazing considering it was shot on a budget less than $30,000 and in 3 weeks. The direction is superb, and cinematography is wonderful. The script is pretty good for 1962, and would foreshadow some films of recent years. The whole film has an eerie atmosphere, with a creepy soundtrack. The only problems are the acting is not great, and on the DVD the audio of the dialog is low. For some the film may be to slow, but if you can handle that, then don't worry. Those are the only problems. If you picture yourself in the woman's situation you will see how frightening this film is. I recommend this to anyone who likes creepy atomospheric intelligent horror. 4 stars. Check it out.
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