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Mary Henry is enjoying the day by riding around in a car with two friends. When challenged to a drag, the women accept, but are forced off of a bridge. It appears that all are drowned, until Mary, quite some time later, amazingly emerges from the river. After recovering, Mary accepts a job in a new town as a church organist, only to be dogged by a mysterious phantom figure that seems to reside in an old run-down pavilion. It is here that Mary must confront the personal demons of her spiritual insouciance. Written by
Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
Mary and her two friends leave the road and fly off a bridge during a friendly dragster race. She is the only survivor and after her recovery she takes up a job as the church organist in a new town, but she is constantly blighted by a ghostly like visitor and periods of time when nobody seems to know she exists.
A hinted spoiler follows.
Carnival Of Souls has thankfully found a whole new audience in the new millennium, the advent of cheap triple pack DVDs and a lush Criterion release have brought it firmly to the attention of Horror/Ghost fans who were not aware that the film even existed. That said, there is no doubting that many big name directors were fully aware of it, tho, for Carnival Of Souls has influenced such luminary genre masters from Romero to Carpenter, and from Hooper to Shyamalan, be it the low budget DIY ethic, or its now genre staple twist ending, it's a film (along with it's director Herk Harvey) that is referenced as much as it is copied.
The tag often used for the film is that it's an elongated Twilight Zone episode, and sure enough I think that is a perfect fit. Its whole structure feels like a part of that wonderful and amazing Rod Serling show, and for sure this story owes a doff of the cap to An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (an Ambrose Bierce short that was reworked and used on Serling's show), but to merely suggest a retread of a previously used idea would be very unfair. Carnival Of Souls is full of eerie sequences that are dream like in quality yet goose pimply in effect. Scored at frequent intervals by a jangling organ shrill, the ghostly phantoms that plague poor Mary actually bring a shiver to the spine; while a surrealistic dance of the carnival is a stunning eerie highlight. It's a wonderfully brought together story that has one pondering uneasily from the get go, managing to jolt your senses adroitly with a very special ending.
With a small budget of only $30,000 and a cast of friends, Herk Harvey crafted one of the best independent horror sub-genre films ever made. Don't believe me? Then go ask Romero, Raimi or Hooper. 8/10
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