‘Carnival of Souls’ Review: One Hell of a Carnival

Posted in The Screening Room by - October 18, 2014

Carnival of Souls is a pretty low key horror film. I guarantee you haven’t heard of this film for a couple reasons: its from the 60s, it was independently released, and it’s a cult film. However, it has influenced the likes of both David Lynch and George Romero, who themselves have been hugely influential in film. That being said, honestly I wasn’t floored by this film other than the stylistic choices.

Stylistically, the film has more in common with David Lynch’s earlier works than it does a traditional horror film from the 60s. The interplay between light and shadow plays up the ethereal, unsettling nature of the world that Mary, the protagonist, occupies. The man that stalks Mary benefits from the stark contrasts, with dark circles around his eyes, creating the effect of a human skull. He occupies the “spirit world” that coexists just on the periphery of our world, if only for a brief moment. The effect is similar to the one used in The Exorcist with the Captain Howdy character which uses the same light and dark to accentuate the ghoulish features of the character’s face. 

There is however, many problems with this film. While it is gorgeous to look at, it sounds awful. The lines are out of sync with the actor’s mouths which creates a comical effect that drew me out of the serious nature of the film. The actor’s lines seem don’t seem to come out of their mouths, and when they do they are muted and sometimes wholly indistinguishable. Along with the audio problems, the plot of the film does little to keep the viewer’s attention, dragging at times. The plot beats follow a predictable path which, though it may not have been so predictable in the 60s, do little challenge the viewer. The “twist ending” is also poorly executed with a even barely observant viewer being able to see it coming long before the final shot. 

Carnival of Souls is similar to Suspiria; they’re both beautiful to look at but lack substance. The visually striking nature of the film can’t support the film on it’s own, causing the overall film to suffer. Along with the horrendous audio problems it creates an experience that beg for further viewings. Its too bad though since it is such a damn beautiful and expertly shot film.

Final Say: Watch It For the Visuals

Who Said What?

Mary Henry: “I don’t belong in the world.”

This post was written by
Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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