1962, Movies

Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey)

This is one of those movies where, if you cast your mind back, you can imagine it would have been scary, as there wasn’t much like it in 1962. But now, with fifty plus years in between, it’s hard to look at it as much more than an eerie curiosity, full of great lighting and with a particularly great location, but with nothing remotely scary, and having dated rather horribly.

On the positive side is the atmosphere:

  • There’s the eerie score, played entirely on the organ – fitting, given the protagonist is an organist
  • There’s the cinematography and lighting which, though perhaps by accident, creates a great sense of mood, even in the daylight. This is one of those movies which you can imagine someone only familiar with Hollywood seeing in 1962 and being rather blown away by what was possible with lighting and interesting framing.
  • And there’s the amusement park in Utah, which must have been just begging someone to film a movie there, it’s so ideal for a horror movie.

It’s also worth mentioning the overall plot, which involves a career-oriented woman. As far as I could tell, nothing she did in her life doomed her to her fate, rather it’s what a particular couple of men did. It’s fairly rare to see such an old horror movie where a career-oriented woman isn’t being punished for being independent. (Also, another note on the plot: Jacob’s Ladder stole it.)

But the film has dated rather poorly, not just because none of this is scary any more, but because of the perhaps of the actors, who use their faces to convey emotion in ways that feel cartoonish. And there’s barely any character development, even with the main character, which is just bonkers for how much time they spend on her.

But if I can cast myself back there, I can imagine it being an interesting movie to see in 1962.


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