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Carnival of Souls

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Carnival of Souls (1962) starring Candace Hilligoss
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Carnival of Souls (1962) starring Candace Hilligoss
reviewed by The masked reviewer

In Carnival of Souls,  Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) and her friends enter a drag race with some young men when tragedy strikes. Mary, and her friends car crashes into the river. After the car is presumed to be washed down the river Mary appears on the sandbank alive, and in a state of shock. Sometime later the car is still missing, and Mary is starting her new job in another state as an organist. On the road Mary begins to see things. This is the the point in the movie where it begins to build tension, and reality starts to unravel.

Mary, it takes more than intellect to be a musician. Put your soul into it a little, okay?
-Organ Factory Boss

I can’t say anymore or I will spoil the movie. This is a movie you will need to see for yourself.

Carnival of Souls (1962) starring Candace Hilligoss

Carnival of Souls has a wonderful small town feeling. The church is ornate without being gaudy, and the carnival is hauntingly beautiful. They made the most of their small budget. Even though there are little inconsistencies throughout the film, I feel it adds to the dream-like atmosphere. The scenes are well paced and well acted. The characters interact well together.

Cast of characters

  • Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss): “To me, a church is just a place of business.” She is a very interesting character. She is reclusive but desires attention. Mary thinks very little of the church, but she plays the church organ.  She is reserved, but at times seductive. Mary asks for help, but won’t listen to the advice given. Still, she is a likable, realistic character.
  • Mrs. Thomas (Frances Feist): Is a warm, welcoming landlady.
  • John Lindon (Sidney Berger): A seeming friendly, but really an alcoholic creep.
  • Minister (Art Ellison): “You cannot live in isolation from the human race, you know.” He is a caring man, trying to help Mary reconnect to people.
  • Dr. Samuels (Stan Levitt): A well-meaning doctor.
  • “The Man” (Herk Harvey): All I can say is “The Man” is an amazing character. Herk Harvey is also the producer.

This is a unique horror film, silent, and haunting. This film is one of a kind, and once you’ve seen this film you’ll never forget it. This film is a cult classic for a reason, I can’t praise this film enough.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Editorial review of movie review of Carnival of Souls (1962), courtesy of essential video

An ultra-cheap B-horror movie, filmed in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1962, with a really creepy Twilight Zone-style premise and some great shoestring atmosphere. Wandering into a small town after an auto accident, to begin her new job as a church organist, young Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) begins to pick up strange vibes: none of the normal people in town seem to be able to see her, and she keeps being accosted by freakish pasty-faced types who seem to be dead on their feet. The nightmarish finale benefits from its one-of-a-kind “found” setting, an empty amusement park rising like a ghostly castle from the prairie landscape. This is much less aggressive and violent film than George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, but for sheer skin- crawling spookiness, it’s in the same class. –David Chute –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

movie quotes for Carnival of Souls

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

Mrs. Thomas: You just let your imagination run away with you.

Mrs. Thomas: You can take all the baths you want.

Mary Henry: It’s funny … the world is so different in the daylight. In the dark, your fantasies get so out of hand. But in the daylight everything falls back into place again.

Minister: You cannot live in isolation from the human race, you know.

John Linden: You’re gonna need me in the evening, you just don’t know it yet.

John Linden: [pours whiskey in his morning coffee] What do you think, I’m an alcoholic? I just like to start the day off in a good mood.
Mary Henry: You must be hilarious by noon.

John Linden: [when Mary does not drink the glass of beer he ordered for her at a bar] What’s the matter? Don’t you drink?
Mary Henry: Not really.
John Linden: Well, I do. And not only do I drink really, I really drink.

John Linden: That’s just what I need! Get mixed up with some girl who’s off her rocker!

Dr. Samuels: Now, don’t be hasty!

Minister: Profane! Sacrilege!

Trivia for Carnival of Souls

  • Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made under the initially miniscule $17,000 budget.
  • Filmed in three weeks.
  • This film was shot on location in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in Lawrence, Kansas, with interior shots at the Centron Studios in Lawrence. Centron was an industrial film company, producing industrial and educational films and “social guidance” short subjects in the 1950s into the 1960s. Most of this film’s technical staff, including director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford, were Centron employees.
  • The film resurfaced in 1989 when it was fully restored and given a more proper release in New York.
  • The supporting cast of the film was made up of local actors from the Lawrence, Kansas area, where much of the film was shot.
  • Director/writer Herk Harvey thought up the idea of the film after driving past the Saltair Amusement Park while traveling through Salt Lake City.
  • Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, but its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following. Today it is regarded as a landmark in psychological horror.
  • The film’s budget was raised over the course of one weekend. Local businesses in Lawrence, Kansas invested in the film.

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