If you look at horror films through the ages some of the most talked about or iconic films are those that were made on a shoe string budget. Films such as, Night of the Living Dead and Paranormal Activity are the first to pop into my mind along with this week’s featured film Carnival of Souls. As mentioned, Carnival of Souls was made on a tight budget and to some is one of the best horror films of its time. The sad thing is, that many have not seen or experienced the film as of yet.
Carnival of Souls was made back in 1962 and for the time had a budget of just around thirty-three thousand dollars. A great example of how the budget was handled is the fact the director even shot himself as one of the more “interesting” roles in the film. The producers, and director, also relied on a lot of the locals in making this film and were very fortunate to find the right settings when it came to location.
Candace Hilligoss stars as the young female organist, Mary Henry. Mary is found to be a very talented woman when it comes to playing the organ and these talents could have served her well through life, but one faithful day can change the direction of anyone’s life.
The event in question is shown to the viewers within the opening moments of the film. It’s a common occurrence of youth, especially in the 1960’s, to accept a challenge to drag race another car. However, when Mary and her friends except the challenge from some local boys they could not have known that it results in the girl’s car getting pushed off the local bridge. This leads the girl’s car into splashing down into the river with only Mary surviving, as we see her come out of the water at the river’s edge.
Mary stumbles through life for a period before moving on and settling in Salt Lake City. She is able to find work at a local church using her talents at the organ to become the church organist. She is even able to find a place to live, and although, one of her neighbors seems a bit attracted to Mary she at times comes off as cold and a bit uncaring. This all could be a result from the horrific accident that had claimed the life of two of her friends.
There is one problem that Mary is unsure of how to deal with and this is the fact she begins seeing a strange man’s face in mirrors and at times it even takes her place in a mirror. She seems to be the only one that sees the man and other things begin to happen as well. A creepy, maybe even demonic, form of organ music begins to plague her and at one point something takes over her body as she begins to play the music while in church.
I’m purposely leaving out some of the highlights and other action scenes, as I personally want people to get out and view the film on their own. This is one of those hidden, cult classics, that more and more people need to be introduced to.
Carnival of Souls was shot in such a manner that they made use of every dime they had available to them. The director’s use of camera angles adds to the sense of dread you may get for Mary during pivotal scenes in the film. The direction also is done in such a way that it draws you into Mary’s life. You even begin to relate to her as the movie goes on and feel sorry for this young woman. The ending in itself will also leave you somewhat shocked.
This is one of those films that may continue to get air play on television during those midnight creature feature shows. However, if you do find it, I would suggest you take time and view the film and ignore any host banter. Carnival of Souls is a film that needed no bigger budget as it delivered its story to viewers in an engaging way. Lastly, this is one of those films that delivers a mind and thought provoking feature that will leave you wishing there was more.