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The Essentials: Carnival of Souls (1962)

After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.
(NR, 78 min.)


Wednesday, October 16, 2024

7:00 PM

This monthly series showcases essential films everyone should see on the big screen.
The Essentials series is Free for Members.

A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, the eerily effective B-movie classic Carnival of Souls was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and, with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it succeeds. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late-night television and continues to inspire filmmakers today. [Criterion]

Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger
Director: Herk Harvey
Genre(s): Horror, Mystery

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"A strangely eloquent artifact."

— Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Its imagery evokes not a horror of blood, but a horror of loneliness."

— Glenn Kenny, Video Review

"Its mix of art-house ambiguity and genuine creepiness make it a must see."

— Betsy Sherman, Boston Globe

"The movie evokes menace, a nameless dread, without ever resorting to explicit violence."

— Joseph Gelmis, Newsday

"Sublimely creepy, a disorienting tale from the dark side with an uncanny knack for making your spine itch."

— Steve Dollar, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"If not quite a neglected masterpiece, it shows what could be done by atmosphere and suggestion before the days of slash and splatter."

— Hugo Davenport, Daily Telegraph (UK)

"'Carnival of Souls' is probably the first time a nightmare has been fully captured on screen, and Mary is every blighted traveler of the sub-conscious."

— Jennifer Matsui, The Chiseler

"Occasionally a feature film emerges from the midwest, although this is the first ever out of Lawrence, Kans, where a group of commercial film pros veered off into a try at producing theatrical entertainment."

— Variety Staff, Variety

"With boldly imaginative effects that defy the scant budget, Harvey leaps out from the company of Ed Wood and George Romero to join that of Michelangelo Antonioni as a poet of post-industrial alienation."

— Richard Brody, New Yorker