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During a fun drag race on the open street, a car falls off a bridge
into a river ... & the authorities do their best to retrieve the car,
but since the river is quite muddy, with no success, & there semks no
hope for thjose in the car ... until one of them, Mary Henry (Candace
Hilligoss), mysteriously emerges from the water, even if she has been down
there for 3 hours, & what's more, she seems to be unscathed, more than
a bit shaken perhaps, but unscathed.
Soon after the accident, Mary decides to move to Utah to start a new
job as church organist, but even on her drive to Utah, a creepy old man, a
ghoul perhaps, haunts her & on one occasion forces her to drive her
car off the road.
In the village Mary has moved to, it's not getting any better, the
ghoul seems to haunt her, be it at the house she has rented a room in or
in the church. As a result, the shy Mary gets even less sociable, & at
first spurns all the avances of her next door neighbour Johnny (Sidney
Berger). Her state even worsens when she realizes she sometimes seems to
fade out of reality - meaning noone does any longer notice her, while she
cannot hear anything.She visits a psychiatrist (Stan Levitt), but he can't
help her either, as he wants to convince her it's only her imagination.
Soon Mary thinks the answers to everything lie in a nearby rundown,
abandoned pavillon, & thinks when she visits the place, this might
turn everything back to normal again. The place itself seems harmless
enough, & for a while she is calmed down, but that night, when
practicing her organplaying in church, her mind wanders of seeing a
plethora of dancing zombies & the like, & eventually she starts
playing what the minister (Art Ellison) of the church labels as profane
music ... & because she plays this kind of music, he throws her out.
That same evening, Johnny has finally managed to land a date with Mary,
& even though she seems to be gloomy all evening & is less than
entertaining company, he can somehow get her to invite him to her room ...
but right before they can get started dong you-know-what, Mary sees the
ghoul again & has a nervous breakdown, & Johnny, who was expecting
something else, leaves her on her own ...
The next day, Mary leaves her appartment without a word with all her
things, desperately wanting to get away, but soon enough, at the
busstation, she seems to fade out of reality again, & her psychiatrist
has turned into the ghoul and ... that last bit obviously was a dream, but
to get it al behind her, Mary decides to head for the pavillon again,
where she finds the zombies dancing, & they invite her to join ...
& when she refuses they hunt her down and ...
At the pavillon, a group of men looking for her find her traces all of
a sudden leading to nowhere as if she has disappeared into thin air ...
Back at the bridge where Mary had her accident, the authorities have
finally managed to get the car out of the river ... & Mary's dead body
is in it.
Carnival of Souls couldn't be more different from the
sensationalistic shocks & hokum monsters you'd come to expect from an
early 60's independently produced cheap horror film: This is a
deliberately slow moving elegiac little spooker that relies on its creepy
concepts which are translated onto screen with a genuine feeling for the
proper atmosphere that easily overcome the not all that good actors or
lack of a real budget, which shows that with real talent one doesn't need
much to make a good film.
Not surprisingly, the film was not a big success upon its release, but
over the years has become a fan favourite. Recommended.