It begins with a deadly car crash and one survivor- the beautiful Mary Henry. Carnival of Souls follows the story of Mary as she adjusts to life after this accident. Filmed in black and white and unfolding the plot in a psychosomatic nightmare, it could be said this is one of the first psychological thrillers ever made.
Three days after the accident, Mary seems back to normal but something seems off… she seems colder somehow and antisocial. (Mary looks a lot like Barbara from Night of the Living Dead.) She starts a new job as an organist at a church despite not being very religious. In fact, she has no desire for the close comfort of other people. She doesn’t feel capable of intimacy. When she starts having strange visions and experiencing long moments of people ignoring her as if she wasn’t there at all, she sees a doctor who tells her she is probably suffering from mental shock due to her accident. Meanwhile, Mary feels drawn to the old carnival grounds by the lake where she had her accident. Maybe this haunted and abandoned place holds the answer to her troubles.
I’m not sure if it’s because Mary isn’t that likable of a character or because the pace is too slow for my liking, but I’m not a huge fan of this film even though I have a vast appreciation for it. At the time it was made, the plot was so innovative that audiences and critics alike viewed it as a revelation. (I won’t give away THE twist.) Today, this allegory has been used time and time again in films like Dead End (2003) and Soul Survivors (2001). I prefer The Innocents (1961)/The Others (2001) over Carnival of Souls. Despite it not being at the top of my favorite classic horror movies, there is no denying its power and influence on the horror genre.
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