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June 15, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #28 - Carnival of Souls

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night
Carnival of Souls
(1962, Dir. by Herk Harvey.)
 Why It's Here:
The low-budget spook show at its surreal finest, Herk Harvey's film has inspired plenty of horror films throughout the years.  Boasting some haunting visuals and a manic performance by Candice Hilligoss some 50 years later, Carnival of Souls is still a fascinating case study that should be a guide to any aspiring horror filmmaker out there.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
When Hillgoss' Mary starts wandering around the abandoned carnival location on the edge of her new town, you know things are about to get funky.  The carnival scene holds plenty of creepy sites, and the folks who arise to terrify her do a lot to make the film great.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
I'm cheating a little bit here, because I first saw this film on a double feature DVD with Carnival of Souls.  But I still think that 1960's Hotel Hell (aka, The City of the Dead) shares an eerie tone with the film, and the doomed female lead is just as helpless as Mary is in Carnival of Souls. When it comes to low-budget black and white horror, these two films stand out as classics.

What It Means To Me:
Endlessly watchable and surprisingly profound, Carnival of Souls is a perfect example of how a little bit of ambition can make up for a laundry list of limitations. Like a lot of younger film folks, I saw this after other similarly constructed films (*cough*THESIXTHSENSE*cough*) - which dampened the surprise of the plot - yet it's the film I'm still thinking about many years later.  Can't argue with that.

4 comments:

Marvin the Macabre said...

Excellent choice, my man. This movie is spectacularly creepy. Romero cites it as an inspiration for Night of the Living Dead, and it shows.

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Christine Hadden said...

I absolutely love this film! Did you know Herk Harvey actually played the "lead ghoul", the one who is so hell bent on terrorizing her?
There are so many terrific moments of quiet horror in this film, and together with that freaky organ music throughout just makes it such a worthy classic!

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