Carnival of Souls
A Movie Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This black and white gem from the early Kennedy administration era is a window into the past. The dress, speech and physical surroundings of circa-1960 Middle America is unerringly reflected in a non-satirical, objective manner. The story is vintage “Twilight Zone” dead-come-back-to-life.
The focus is on character and spookiness rather than blood and gore. Most interesting is the historical evidence the movie provides of a vital, non-Hollywood, non-glitzy approach to movie making. Kansas and Utah are the locations, and the industrial-filmmakers-turned-storytellers who produced the film make the most of real, everyday locations that turn sinister through clever but rarely self-conscious cinematography.
I came to this film with little knowledge of its “cult” status. One is tempted to compare this to another independent production, “Blair Witch Project,” but there is a major difference. “Blair Witch” was cunningly produced and marketed using every trick in the book now available in our electronic culture. Carnival of Souls is more a small town production thoughtfully crafted to reflect more the spirit of a spooky novel than a blood and guts horror story.
The movie is not without its flaws. There is variability among the amateur acting crew, for example. But the overall tone, the eerie organ music, the attention to seemingly minor details, and the strong focus on the main character’s strange plight (is she or is she not without a soul?) make this a fascinating film.
Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald