Saturday, February 7, 2009

Carnival of Souls

This one may be a tad overly famous for the HROHFYSSBYD, but while it was fairly well-known for its time, it seems to have largely escaped the consciousness of the more modern day audience, and so I feel justified in including it here. This is one of those films, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, that just functions so far outside the boundaries of a normal film, that it starts to feel more like a fever dream than anything sane.

The film opens, at least, with some fairly standard early-60s fare, with a group of cheerful youths deciding to go for a friendly bit of drag racing. Events quickly take a turn for the worse, however, when the girls’ car goes out of control and flies off a bridge, seeming to kill the pair in the river below. Some time later, one of the girls resurfaces long after she should have drowned, and tries to start going about her life as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, she now seems to be getting stalked by a mysterious man that seems to be coming out of the river after her, and wants to drag her away to where others like him are. It all leads to a climax at a dark carnival filled with ghouls that all want her to join them.

There’s not really that much of a coherent narrative to the film after a while, as it gets more and more dreamlike and hallucinatory the farther she gets from her accident. I like a movie that’s not afraid to actually try something new, and I also enjoy when a movie is perfectly happy to be weird and bizarre and never actually explain what’s going on. We are somewhat left to figure out just what the hell happened, which (to me, at least) is a rather nice change of pace from modern horrors like the Saw films, where we have everything over-explained to the point where we just wish they would let us be already. It was definitely a movie ahead of its time, which perhaps explains why nobody watched it when it first came out.

Fortunately for anyone interested in seeing this film, it has lapsed into the public domain, so there is no shortage of ways to view it. There are probably dozens of prints of it on DVD of varying quality (I’ve included a link below of the Criterion edition, which is a tad on the pricey side but which is easily the best version you’ll ever be able to get), but in case you wanted it cheap as free, the entire movie is up on Youtube. Enjoy.

Rating: ***

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