I don't belong in the world...that's what it is. Something separates me from other people.
A classic, low-budget horror movie directed by Herk Harvey and written by John Clifford in 1961. The main character is a young woman who walks away from a car wreck in a river, where her two girlfriends died. She takes a job as a church organist to get on with her life, but strange things start happening. She doesn't quite accept being dead, so returns (unknowingly) as an unsettled spirit. This is an exceptionally haunting, eerie, and unforgettable film.
Carnival was filmed in Harvey and Clifford's home base of Lawrence, Kansas, and Salt Lake City, Utah, over a period of 3-4 weeks. Clifford wrote Souls in sequence. He didn't have an outline of any sort and didn't know himself how it was going to end.
The new DVD is excellent, with fine picture quality and more thoughtful extras than I've seen on any other DVD. There are bios of each cast member as well as a huge amount of information on the setting, the making of the film, and more.
John Clifford on an often-asked question: "How come Carnival of Souls is playing in theaters thiry years after it was made, when so many hundreds of other low-budget, black-and-white films are long forgotten?"
From the writer's angle, I think a little of it had to do with the fact that I had no need to worry about Hollywood formats. That made Carnival of Souls maybe just a little bit different. I didn't need to conform (I probably didn't know how to conform) and I knew who the porducer/director would be and that he'd be open to whatever I propose. For instance, it's one of the few films from that period, or even today, that has no love story or romance, even as a subplot. Considering the minuscle budget, there are some good things in Carnival as far as the directing and cinematography and all that. And Herk deserves full credit for all that. But it's interesting to me that, after all the people who have written about Carnival of Souls, there's one thing that I put in there that nobody's ever noticed - and I think it's one of the reasons why it stays in the minds of some people. I decided early on to give the heroine no real sympathy or understanding from any other character. So, for the viewer, there's no relief from her dilemma. There's no catharsis, even, except what the viewer creates for himself. Hardly anybody seems to tumble to that.
Candace Hilligus (Mary Henry) on Carnival's longevity: In their wonderful "innocence," uncorrupted by the Steven Spielberg syndrome, they allowed the audience to ask the question "Who am I and what would I be if I were dead? Would I have an identity?" That terror of being alone, the possibility that, when you're dead, you may go into a no-man's land - that fear is universal.