Carnival of Souls (1962) - Herk Harvey

Independent horror movies from the 1960's have always intrigued me. Their solutions to problems both on and off the screen were always creative. The film-maker has to make his audience scream but can only do it with the limited amount of funds that was allocated to this guy by whatever flash-in-the-pan studio came his way. That meant that this type of director had to work harder to bring the story to life. He didn't have half of the money that Laurence of Arabia even paid their grips! Well... don't quote me there, but you get the idea.

Carnival of Souls is about a woman that was the lone survivor in a terrible car accident. Who is strangely driven to investigate an abandoned carnival in her new town. She is constantly harassed and haunted by the specters of the other people that were in the accident with her and she slowly begins to lose her mind.

This movie hits all of the places that it needs to, it is just plagued by the things that usually haunted cinema in the late 50's and early 60's. Characters lacked personality and the dialogue seemed forced. At some points the dubbing was so atrocious that it hardly synced up to the actors' lips. I know that most of the films at the time had to deal with this ancient editing flaw, but most seemed to manage. The way the director set the film up is spectacular. If you can look past these flaws and watch this movie (paying attention to the atmosphere and story) this movie suddenly becomes terrifying. If you are showing this movie to someone that is expecting to be scared Michael Myers style, then I think you should skip ahead to Spider Baby.

The film had its creepy moments and made you think more than other horror films of its era. The movie's creepy parts are when our heroine is being haunted and harassed. However, this is where those problems from above arise. Something scary would happen, a moment would pass, and then you would hear the scream. It really drags down the scary value.

For its time, Carnival of Souls is a classic horror movie. For some, it may be one of the scariest movies of all time. To me, however, it felt like a light Twilight Zone episode. It lacked character and that would of made all of the difference. If you have a free night this month, go ahead and pop this one in.

"You're gonna need me in the evening, you just don't know it yet."


  • Filmed in Salt Lake City and parts of Kansas
  • On a budget of $17,000
  • Was an inspiration for George Romero and David Lynch