Carnival of Souls (1962)

1h 18m / Not Rated / Psychological Horror

Mary Henry ends up the sole survivor of a fatal car accident through mysterious circumstances. Trying to put the incident behind her, she moves to Salt Lake City and takes a job as a church organist. But her fresh start is interrupted by visions of a fiendish man (played by director Herk Harvey). As the visions begin to occur more frequently, Mary finds herself drawn to the deserted carnival on the outskirts of town. The strangely alluring carnival may hold the secret to her tragic past.

It’s difficult to say anything definitive about Carnival of Souls. It’s a shapeshifter of a film. Is it bad? The people making it seemed to think so: lead actress Candace Hilligoss called it a “take-the-money-and-run type of situation.” But she trained with Lee Strasberg! Harvey set out to make a film inspired by Ingmar Bergman and Jean Cocteau. His assistant director shot second unit on Robert Altman’s first film. Is it even a horror movie? It’s eerie and disorienting, shot through with bizarre dream sequences and haunting organ. It’s not the only movie to get both the Rifftrax treatment and a spot in the Criterion Collection — Armageddon joins it there — but it’s the only one to also be given a full restoration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Maybe it simply doesn’t belong in this world…

Nightmare series 2023 logo

CLICK HERE for the rest of the 2023 “A Nightmare on Franklin Street” series lineup