Title: Carnival of Souls (1962)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Tagline: “She Was A Stranger Among The Living.”
My Tagline: “She Was A Stranger Among The Living, She Didn’t Rest In Peace With The Dead, But She Feels Right At Home Playing On The Reverend’s Organ.”
Favorite Quote: “You can take all the baths you want. I’m not the type to worry about a thing like that.”
Plot Synopsis: Mary Henry is a church organist who, unlike the little balls of fire we associate with church organists, is a very isolated and extremely dull person. Shortly before moving from her homestead of Lawrence, Kansas, Mary is in a car accident that includes a gentle rolling off a bridge into a river. Just as those searching for survivors are ready to give up Mary emerges from the mud and resumes life again. Through completely natural exposition we come to understand that Mary is isolated and awkward. Mary pays no heed and races off to Utah to accept a church organ gig. Here is where things get a little confusing because slightly unusual happenings occur around Mary as she gets settled into her new home. The problem is that since it’s Utah it’s nearly impossible to tell what is supernatural and what is just Utah. Mary moves into a room owned by a kindly yet clearly insane old woman and lives across the hall from a greasy stalker who works at the docks. (her housemates are the scariest characters in the entire film) Well I’ll spare you all the details but some weird stuff happens and Mary tries to come to terms with it. I’m pretty sure the ending was suppose to be some surprise twist but I’d like to think that anyone with half a brain cell would have seen it coming.
Review: This film is slightly historical and supposedly influential on some modern movies even today. I have my doubts about that but regardless it’s a fun-bad movie. The most entertaining thing to do is watch the character Mary as her performance gets stranger and more bizarre. The music, which is mostly organ music, is tough to listen to for most people and to some is intolerable. Mary’s housemates are very entertaining as they have the best lines and are the most animated. If you can get drawn into this movie then it can be truly great. You will find yourself warning Mary not to encourage the greasy stalker and advising her not to take baths as the land lady wants her to way too much. You will ponder the symbolism of the abandoned amusement park and try to figure out why the director felt in necessary to jump cut to stain glass windows over and over. It can be a lot of fun and now that I think about it there is one legitimately good shot where a few ghouls rise out of some water. The influence of this scene is best demonstrated in the film masterpiece “George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead.”
Trivia: -Was colorized by company “Legend Films” and includes commentary by the great Mike Nelson. This version of the film is by far the best and Mr. Nelson’s commentary is a great source for real trivia about the movie.