Sunday, October 3, 2010
The Director: Herk Harvey
The Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Sidney Berger, Francis Feist
Release Date: September 26, 1962
One of my favorite nightmares on film is most certainly the 1962 independent horror hit Carnival of Souls. Primarily shot in Lawrence, Kansas, the film was made by a company that specialized in industrial film. In other words, the film probably had to battle titles like "Your Safety Goggles and You" in the interoffice awards race. Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford, waived any profits from the film so they could get it made - a shoot which took only three weeks and cost a minuscule $17,000.
The film's most memorable scenes, however, take place at an abandoned amusement park outside Salt Lake City, Utah. As we follow actress Candace Hilligoss on a cross-country journey, Harvey appears uncredited as a haunting spectre (credited only as "The Man") who seems to be reminding her of past sins. There are plenty of fantastic scenes that capture Hilligoss' Mary as she faces demons she doesn't understand, and the film's amateur nature seems to add to the allure. The film is so simple that it almost feels real.
Despite its meager beginnings and unwatchable remake, Harvey's Carnival of Souls has become a prototypical horror film that lives on nearly 50 years later - you can watch it for free online at many sites, and it's also been restored and released by the Criterion Collection. Check it out, if you dare!