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Carnival of Souls (1962): creepy


slaytonf
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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

 

This film definitely creeps me out too. A good Halloweeny treat.

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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

Agree with your first paragraph, but can't say it creeps me out.  Got it as part of a 50 movie CD set.

May need to watch it again.

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Agree with your first paragraph, but can't say it creeps me out.  Got it as part of a 50 movie CD set.

May need to watch it again.

 

It doesn't ?  (creep you out.)  Don't tell me you're one of those people who only enjoy the obvious kind of scary movie. Give it another shot. 

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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

Started to watch this early a.m. this morning but needed to get to sleep. Saving it for a dark, cold, stormy night to put me in the mood a good night to watch The Haunting too!

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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

 

Thank you, slayton, for drawing attention to this undeservedly obscure "horror" film. I put "horror" in quotation marks, because I'm not sure I'd describe it as such, yet can't think of another genre or word to categorize just what kind of movie it is.

Doesn't matter. I agree with everything you said about it. Carnival of Souls is one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. 

 

SPOILER

 

What I find especially interesting and compelling about the film is the realization that this girl is neither dead nor alive, but caught in some macbre twilight area in between the two states of being. I've always figured, she should have died with her friends, when they went over the bridge, but for some reason, something went wrong, she died but then life somehow reached out to her and hauled her back. So both Life wants her, and Death wants her.  To which world does she belong?

 

This strange in-between place her soul's struggling in is manifested eerily and oddly effectively in such scenes as the dress shop, where she suddenly ceases to hear any sounds at all. It's clear it's nothing as mundance as a hearing problem...it's more as if the for a few moments Death is pulling her away from the world, and all the ordinary things of the earth are removed from her perception. But then she's back, Life tugs her soul back to the world, and she can hear again.

 

Yet she's not a zombie, she's not one of the "undead"; it's more obscure than that, more ambiguous. That's one of the fascinating things about Carnival of Souls.

 

My favourite scene, for sheer chilling other-worldliness, is the scene where the girl goes to the pier, where there seems to be some kind of party going on. ...a party of the dead. I love the truly eerie atmosphere this scene so successfully conveys. And that MC, or host, or Leader of the Dead, or whoever and whatever he is, has to  be amongst the creepiest strangest ghost figures I've ever seen.

 

I'd recommend Carnival of Souls for anyone with a taste for strange and eerie tales, the kind that leave a lot up to the viewer to figure out, rather than the more obvious kind of horror movie that puts it all out there. No mystery to them, and I like mystery.

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Thank you, slayton, for drawing attention to this undeservedly obscure "horror" film. I put "horror" in quotation marks, because I'm not sure I'd describe it as such, yet can't think of another genre or word to categorize just what kind of movie it is.

Doesn't matter. I agree with everything you said about it. Carnival of Souls is one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. 

 

SPOILER

 

What I find especially interesting and compelling about the film is the realization that this girl is neither dead nor alive, but caught in some macbre twilight area in between the two states of being. I've always figured, she should have died with her friends, when they went over the bridge, but for some reason, something went wrong, she died but then life somehow reached out to her and hauled her back. So both Life wants her, and Death wants her.  To which world does she belong?

 

This strange in-between place her soul's struggling in is manifested eerily and oddly effectively in such scenes as the dress shop, where she suddenly ceases to hear any sounds at all. It's clear it's nothing as mundance as a hearing problem...it's more as if the for a few moments Death is pulling her away from the world, and all the ordinary things of the earth are removed from her perception. But then she's back, Life tugs her soul back to the world, and she can hear again.

 

Yet she's not a zombie, she's not one of the "undead"; it's more obscure than that, more ambiguous. That's one of the fascinating things about Carnival of Souls.

 

My favourite scene, for sheer chilling other-worldliness, is the scene where the girl goes to the pier, where there seems to be some kind of party going on. ...a party of the dead. I love the truly eerie atmosphere this scene so successfully conveys. And that MC, or host, or Leader of the Dead, or whoever and whatever he is, has to  be amongst the creepiest strangest ghost figures I've ever seen.

 

I'd recommend Carnival of Souls for anyone with a taste for strange and eerie tales, the kind that leave a lot up to the viewer to figure out, rather than the more obvious kind of horror movie that puts it all out there. No mystery to them, and I like mystery.

 

 

I'm grateful for your exposition on this really fine movie.  It's my thinking on it.  For some reason she didn't die, or completely die, in the car crash and was left in a kind of intermediate state.  Of course, it was unstable, and couldn't last.  Her unawareness of her condition provided for the atmosphere.  One other good thing about it is though it follows the standard pattern of plot development of a horror movie, it's not trapped by it.  It doesn't feel formulaic, or play out as a rote recitation.

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I watched CARNIVAL OF SOULS for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago on TCM and a few years after my first viewings of THE SIXTH SENSE, THE OTHERS and MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

 

I then remember thinking afterward something to the effect of, "Ah, so THIS was the 'granddaddy' of these newer films in which the lead character doesn't know......", ummmm, yeah, pretty much as the video states that Lawrence posted earlier in this thread.

 

(...yep, I agree with you, stayton...low production values to be sure, but just like those other and newer and bigger budgeted films I just mentioned, this film IS effectively creepy as hell)

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This thread has made me look forward to viewing Carnival of Souls for a second time. And one of the reasons for that is that I've forgotten much of the film from that first viewing about four years ago.

 

I do remember, though, being eerily creeped out by it. The lack of elaborate production values and, in particular, super dooper CGI effects, adds to the subtlety of the film's impact. It somehow seemed more real to me than some big studio production, almost like an amateur home movie that happened to catch something weird on the camera that makes a chill run down your spine.

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Carnival of Souls is indeed a creepy delight.  I first became aware of it when I saw a still photo of the heroine staring at the ghouls dancing in a horror film book.  I was hooked instantly and had to see it.  A couple of years later, I finally did when it aired on one of our local stations that showed cult films on Wednesday evenings (I was in high school at the time, so this was around 2000-2001).  The print shown was likely a public domain print, complete with ill-timed commercial breaks and some goofy poor-man's Svengoolie-type hosts.  It was AMAZING!  I still remember the chills I got when Herk Harvey comes walking toward the camera with his arms stretched out as Mary plays the church organ.  It really does go to show that the best scares come from the simplest places.  You don't need buckets of blood and severed body parts.  Just some good, old-fashioned atmosphere and your imagination.

 

Incidentally, Carnival of Souls is not the first story to feature the now familiar twist of a protagonist not realizing he or she is dead (or dying).  I'm no literary expert, but it goes back at least as far as Ambrose Bierce's 1890 short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."  In fact, just two years before Carnival of Souls, there was a great episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Hitch-Hiker" that tells a nearly identical story.  Starring Inger Stevens, the episode concerns a woman who has a blow-out while traveling cross country. She soon finds herself haunted by a strange hitch-hiker who turns up everywhere she goes, no matter how far she drives.  Guess what she finds out in the end!  Looking on Wikipedia just now, I've discovered that this episode is actually based on a 1940s radio play that was broadcast by Orson Welles and written by Lucille Fletcher (author of Sorry, Wrong Number).

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It's low-budget.  The acting is amateurish.  The writing clumsy and stilted.  The music score strangely detached from the action.  The special effects clunky.  The plot surprise discoverable.  . . .

 

. . .but Carnival of Souls creeps me out like almost no other movie.  With simple elements, it creates a mood of danger and uneasiness.  Unlike other horror movies where violence and death are the source of fear, here the attack is on the identity.  Mayhem and death are one thing, but they are nothing compared to annihilation of the self. 

thats movie cavegirl said wuz so great whichs Y I didnt watch

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This is one of my favorite horror films. I felt like its theme was "When the emotionally dead die, do they even notice?". Note that Mary doesn't seem to need people unless they fulfill a concrete requirement. She isn't interested in the amorous boarding house romeo other than thinking his presence will ward off the ghoul. Given how creepy that guy acted, though, I can hardly blame her.  I haven't watched it lately, but I seem to remember her being lectured about being closed off to people at the school before she leaves to drive to her new job and by the preacher at the church where she works. So I don't think that emotional detached way she has in the film is just something that started "after death".  Just my two cents.

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