Carnival of Souls (1962)

carnival of souls poster 1962 movie cult
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Innovative for its time, great visuals

Predictable by today's standards

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Carnival of Souls

Studio:  Herts-Lion International Corp.

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  September 26, 1962

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

carnival of souls ending ghosts lake

The best punk band of 1962!!! (or a bunch of dead people)

Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) has miraculously survived a car accident which killed her friends.  Now, Mary is haunted by something that seems to be pursuing her even when she takes a new job in Utah.  Constantly seeing a strange man (Herk Harvey), Mary finds herself drawn to a strange, abandoned amusement park on the edge of Salt Lake…where the horror seems to lurk.

Written, produced, and directed by Herk Harvey, Carnival of Souls is a horror mystery film.  The film initially bombed at the theater where it was paired with The Devil’s Messenger (1962), but the film gained a cult following on repeat midnight showings.  A remastered version of the film was released in 1988 with an extended director’s cut.  The Criterion Collection put out a remastered version of both the theatrical cut and director’s cut (Criterion #63).

carnival of souls ghosts dancing candace hilligoss herk harvey

You spin me right round, baby, right round like a record, baby, right round round round.

I remember watching Entertainment Tonight in 1988 when they talked about the rerelease of this film.  As a lover of horror movies, I wanted to see it even as a kid.  Seeing not long after that (it fell in public domain and was readily available), I did enjoy the film and the atmosphere it created with a relatively low budget.

The movie might be pretty tame for today’s audiences and much of the horror is psychological.  The plot twist is pretty obvious for jaded horror fans and the movie plays out as a long episode of The Twilight Zone.  It is leading to the obvious ending, but (like Twilight Zone), it is still a fun ride to take to get there.

Candace Hilligoss is good as the silent and odd Mary Henry.  I don’t know that she’s a good actress, but her character fits the acting that the gives…cold, aloof, and just odd.  You don’ tget a real feel if she was always like that in the film or just after the beginning.  The film’s other real “star” is the ghost man pursuing her who is played by the film’s director Herk Harvey.  He looks like a cross between a scary ghost and a crazy uncle.  The rest of the cast is largely forgettable (in some forgettable scenes).

carnival of souls ending running from ghosts candace hilligoss

You can’t outrun ghosts…

The visuals for the film really are quite strong.  The style of shooting brings home the horror and the old abandon Saltair Pavilion is a creepy location for the film’s climatic scenes.  Being in the public domain, there are a tons of bad and cheap copies floating around, but I recommend the Criterion’s clean looking remastered version.

Carnival of Souls is an imperfect movie, but there is something about it.  It was ahead of its time and you can see its influence on directors and storytellers.  A 1998 movie produced by Wes Craven and directed by Adam Grossman and Ian Kessner was considered a remake of Carnival of Souls, but has very few ties to the original film so don’t make the mistake of missing out on the classic.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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