Thursday, January 3, 2013

Movie Review: Carnival Of Souls (1962)

For Christmas this past year, one of my gifts happen to be a DVD collection that contained fifty horror classics. While many of them were B-rate, low budget, plenty of them are hidden gems for horror lovers like myself. I was more of a horror reader and book collector than horror film fanatic, but this film provides me with an opportunity to check out how horror can be created on the screen. The first film to make up this collection happens to be Carnival Of Souls, which is a 1962 black and white starring Candace Hilligoss in the leading role as Mary Henry. This film does a fine job finding clever ways to play with the mind and playing on with that strength throughout the picture.

To begin, a group of ladies (including Mary) are challenged by a group of men to a drag race. The race looks quite competitive, but it ends with the car full of ladies falling off a bridge (which they given an ignored warning about). Help comes forward, but it's a struggle finding the ladies. Before you know it, Mary comes out and find herself driving on the road in what comes as a sudden twist of events. You may see an obvious connection that may lead you to believing how things are going to end up, and if you do, you have the upper hand. Unfortunately for those who haven't seen this picture, I am not going to leak anything out to you.

Mary becomes a nominee for a job as a organist for the local church, which looks like an opportunity, but what's to follow may not play to her benefit in such. Life after the accident has proven to be quite haunting, especially how she ends up being followed by this creepy looking man, who is credited as "The Man," that only she has knowledge of. It plays quite well into the film, given that plenty of psychological horror plots have to do with the subject seeing something that everyone else cannot. Are they insane or are those around them not very observant? Unless you're Big Bird and his deemed imaginary friend Snuffy, chances are you are generally deemed as being insane before it's too late.

An interesting subplot is added into the mix when Mary realizes she's living with another houseguest, which happens to be a Jersey Shore-like hot shot named John Linden, played by Sidney Berger. He sees her as the new blonde in the house and takes every chance he can get to start something with her. She's not very interested, instead being more interested in her surroundings and seeing the man popping up here and there.

Of course, things start to close in, and she's stuck having to confront "The Man" and others of his kind in some way, shape, or form, but if you aren't able to guess the direction of the film when Mary gets out of the river, you will not expect what's coming. What you see coming may be fairly obvious, but the arrangement of the suspense is well done and quite underrated. This B-rate film doesn't patch up the fact that it is a B-rate film, but Mary does a good job as an independent-minded, but not an ass kicking heroine that we see very often. She's an ordinary woman who was a random passenger in a car filled with women that tipped over in the bay.

This film appropriately fits a collection of horror classics and I would take the time to search this one out if you're looking for something suspenseful. It does do a good job playing the mind game, which I could deem myself fortunate enough to be able to follow. If you come in without a quick mind, good luck, but nevertheless enjoy this film all the same. Some may find the turning points a bit too obvious and predictable, but some are not going to see what's coming.

Verdict: 8/10

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