I have to blog about the Turner Classic Movies Underground Film Series earlier and earlier every Friday, since yall keep saying you MISSED IT. Okay, it's Friday morning, so no excuses!
Tonight, we get Herk Harvey's infamous B-movie, CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962), which has an ending that unfortunately, has been cannibalized countless times since, and you'll therefore have no trouble guessing it. But it's nonetheless a haunting, moody, frightening, consistently startling film; like being in a black-and-white nightmare, or being held underwater. Richard Harland Smith writes:
As well it should. It burrows deep into your head and stays there. Perhaps it is because, like the best horror, it plays on those fears we all share; those fears we don't readily admit to others. Danel Griffin writes:
Though fondly remembered by many horror fans, Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962) was close to being a lost film for thirty years. Seminal studies of the horror genre from the late 60s through to the late 80s lacked reference to the film, their indices skipping from The Car (1977) to Carrie (1976) without so much as a by-your-leave. Thanks in great part to the efforts of Texas-based film historian and restorer Gordon K. Smith, Carnival was reborn in 1989 amid renewed interest and appreciation, not all of it backhanded. A subsequent re-release on the midnight show circuit allowed cult film fans to appreciate Carnival’s singular charms on the big screen. In 1990, the feature debuted on video cassette, a milestone heralded on the cover of the first issue of Video Watchdog magazine. The next year, Herk Harvey licensed Michael H. Price and Todd Camp to adapt his “weird show” as a graphic novel, illustrated in the monochrome starkness of a Jack Chick comic. (The less said about the 1998 remake rubber stamped by executive producer Wes Craven the better.) In 2000, Carnival of Souls was included in the prestigious Criterion Collection, keeping company with the expressive masterworks of Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Carl Dreyer, Jean Cocteau, Georges Franju and Henrí-Georges Clouzot.
I think what I like best about Carnival of Souls is the way that it plays on our natural, everyday fears of isolation and the unknown. When I lived in the lower forty-eight, I used to drive alone in unbending streets in the darkness of the night, and it was easy to give into the sensation that I was not alone out there. You have also found, I am sure, that in the quiet solitude of night driving, it is easy for your imagination to get away with you: Is that a reflection in the passenger-side mirror—some demon or lonely ghost staring at you from the outside? Or when you are alone in the room of an old, dark house of some distant relative: As you smell the ancient dust in the guest bedroom, you think you see a face staring at you through the old, faded curtains. Our wits, of course, eventually get the better of our fears, and we tell ourselves that there is no one in the passenger side window or through the curtains. What is truly terrifying about Carnival of Souls, of course, is that there really is a white, evil face staring back at us. It smiles at us devilishly, with a look that notifies us that it wants no less than our souls.And for Godsake, watch out for that deranged, spooky-weird organ-music!!
Cue The Twilight Zone theme.
Listening to: The Black Crowes - Remedy