aka: Corridors of Evil
Director: Herk Harvey
Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt
She was a stranger among the living
Mary Henry and her friends are driving around in their car when another car with some young men challenge them to a drag race. While they are driving over a bridge, the women’s car looses control and goes off the bridge and into the water.
Mary is the only survivor and after this accident she moves out to a new town after being hired as a church organist. She is not quite the same after the accident though and keeps seeing a ghoulish man and finds herself behaving weird at times. She is unable to tell if she is suffering from post-traumatic stress or if there actually is some supernatural being that is out to get her.
Carnival of Souls was a low budget horror film, even for its time, that was made for only around $30,000 independently. It failed to make a mark upon its release, but has over the years gathered the audience and respect it deserves and is now considered to be a horror classic and one of the finer horror films of the 1960’s.
Even if it goes against all odds, this film works so well on so many levels. The amateurish filming actually just adds to the eerie creepiness of the film and it seems to be very inspired by the silent film era and takes advantage of what worked so well of the film of that time period, the effect of the post-traumatic stress on Mary is interesting, the final twist is left a bit open for the viewer to interpret and it will most likely make the of the film feel even more original and leave you satisfied. It could also be compared to some of the finer twists of The Twilight Zone.
The film is carried by Candace Hilligoss as Mary, who is in every scene of the film. There is more layers to Mary than what the screenwriter probably had in mind when creating her. After her accident, she embraces the loneliness and isolates herself from the rest of the world, even though she has perfectly well social skills and is a beauty that every man would love to wife up. Hilligoss plays the character nearly perfect and it’s amazing that they got such a talent for such a small production.
Even though it is definitely a movie to watch by all horror fans, it also has its faults. It does have some scenes that come off a bit over-the-top and cheesy, and the amateurism does make some of it seem kind of shoddy. It is still amazing to see what director Herk Harvey was able to create on such a low budget. It’s too bad that he didn’t go on to do more horror films in his career after this.
Carnival of Souls is definitely a classic, even if it does have its flaws. The surrealistic, dreamy look of the film is enough to seek it out. It has an excellent release by Criterion that I would recommend and it is a film that will be a contender for everyone’s lists of top 10 horror films of the 60’s.