Posts Tagged ‘Carnival of Souls’

After a car accident a woman is haunted by a terrifying ghoul.

A true horror classic, director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.

The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry who is refreshingly independent thinking and self-sufficient pushing boundaries of 1960’s America.

The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.

Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.

Below – like Barry Norman on speed or Jonathan Ross with a haircut I’ve put together a few of my little pleasures, those films that unless a film geek like myself points them out they may slip under your radar. Some are wonderfully constructed, some are cult classics, some have entrainment value, some for sheer effort and some just deserve to be seen.

Of course I can’t review my very own 2010 art house vampire, hi-jinks drama Terminus- that would be cheating but here’s a full three minute clip  in case you’re curious…

Blood Dolls (1999)

Entertaining low budget freaky film where the protagonist Virgil is an eccentric freak with a head the size of an avocado.

Virgil is biological inventor and his latest creations are the BLOOD DOLLS, who he uses to kill his enemies! There’s a ‘little person’ for a butler. Four leather-clad rock and roll girls-in-a-cage that play on Virgils command.

William Paul Burns as Mr. Mascaro leaves a lasting impression, Phil Fondacaro is on his usual underrated fine form as Hylas, however, the stars of the show are the dolls themselves created by the late Mark Williams.

The movie has B written all over it, it’s like a rehash of Charles Band’s own 80’s killer puppet movie Puppet Master (1989). There’some flamboyant acting, good doll designs and imaginative special effects.

If you like B movies and killer dolls with hearts, it’s not terrific, but it’s fun and does rate outlandish cult status.

MISSION X (2010)

Scottish mercenary veteran Ryan goes on a revenge mission with a group of guns for hire and a student camera-man on tow.

Arms dealers, bad language and shoot outs, are just the playing cards Mission X first lays on the table. It’s the hand that slowly dealt by director/writer David Paul Baker that makes this film stand heads and shoulders above a flurry of camera point of view (POV) films.
The editing is sharp, bringing together footage from different cameras POV, flash forwards and flash backs. There’s a minimal soundtrack music, first-rate blood effects, a great script and characters. With fitting camera work, near on perfect acting; played authentically, not just by the leads but the supporting cast too, that puts the likes of Quarantine (2008) and the interview segments of The Fourth Kind (2009) to shame.
Bond with the characters as you follow them with Ryan and camera man Grant, who’s verbal sparring on serious and every day issues are exceptional. Mission X is a joy to watch, from abandoned buildings, to night clubs and the streets of Scotland, it’s edgy, tense, harsh, hard and confrontational. Secret meetings, anonymous phone calls.
The screenplay is absorbing to the last reel. In between the shots ringing out; get to know the unit; get caught in the gun fire; it’s the closest thing to a possible suicide mission on your homeland you can see on film.
Mission X oozes tension, it’s a naturalist piece of filming that drags in and captivates the viewer from the outset, which makes it compelling viewing.
A smart cleverly crafted must see.
Grave Encounters (2011)
Lance Preston and the crew of ‘Grave Encounters’, a ghost-hunting reality television show find what they’ve been searching for but is the public is public ready to see the horror they’ve encountered.
A missing episode of lost footage directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is probably best described as a mix of UK’s Most Haunted, USA’s Ghost Hunters (T.A.P.S) and Ghost Adventures although it’s shows what many have been wanting to see for series’. There’s poltergeist activity, ghosts and ghouls .
Actor Sean Rogerson’s Lance is almost a parody of Zak Bagans real life presenter of Ghost Adventures. And does an adequate job of carrying the show within a film. The support cast are great intentionally or unintentionally and are as annoying as these co-presenters/investigators in the real shows themselves.
It uses hand-held and static cameras mirroring the aforementioned Television programmes with a splash of colour and night vision for good authentic measure.
As the investigators night proceeds it gets more jumpy and intense with some slick visual effects. Although it never quite makes sense why these ghosts can’t pass through walls and prefer to bang on doors.
It’s better directed and executed than the mass of copycat films that have tried to capture the spirit of these reality investigations. Grave Encounters delivers plenty of chills especially if you are a fan of these paranormal TV shows.
The House on Haunted Hill remake closing aside overall it’s more fun than the Paranormal Activities trilogy but ultimately is simply an extended uber-version of the shows it’s emulating.
Hunter Prey (2010)
After a crash landing an escape human prisoner must avoid being recaptured by humanoid aliens or caught by a bounty hunter.
A low-budget sci-fi reminiscent of Enemy Mines (1985), Pitch Black (2000), Planet of the Apes (1968), Star Wars (1977) and Star Trek’s 1967 ‘Arena’ episode to name a few.
While it may not have the production design or sleekness of some of the aforementioned, Hunter Prey has some nice make-up design and subtle effects. Lead alien performer Poitier is note-worthy as Centauri 7 shows depth and bearded Simon Potter as Logan is entertaining enough as the prisoner on the run in a desert landscape.
The costume design is effective and fan-boy cool but is let down by the original sound design that doesn’t give them weight leaving them plastic and hollow rather than heavy pieces of armour, guns and helmets. Director writer Sandy Collora delivers a watchable sci-fi but it still has the feel of limited budget filmmaking rather than a low budget with a cinematic feel.
Despite an abrupt ending there’s a few story twists and double crossings that are mainly played out in dialogue rather than action and enough visuals to keep you entertained.
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Before Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, there was Dead people a.k.a Messiah of evil. Shot in 1971 the film was not released until 1973. Like H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon and The Wicker Man (1973), weird locals are hiding a horrific secret… In Messiah, the people of Point Dune worship the rise of a red moon as they become zombies.
The storyline is disjointed, but this adds to the mystic, surreal and dreamlike quality of the film. Admittedly, there is some irregular editing and the score is very much of its time, but there’s plenty to like about it.
Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and the aforementioned clearly have taken its cue from Willard Huyck’s jumbled but effective film. Especially the scene where slinky brunette Anitra Ford is pursued through a supermarket. There is also truly creepy scene again with Ford and an albino trucker, played by Bennie Robinson,you’d think he would have been in a lot more movies.
It oozes dread and suspense, it’s a chilling 70’s horror flick that despite its faults is a lot better than some of today’s so called horrors.
Puppetmaster (1989)
Puppet masters premise is an ultimate, interesting horror film idea for those who like this genre. The film begins by creating an interesting back story, Nazis arrive at a hotel in search of Toulon who is tending to his puppets that seem to have a life of their own. Years later a team of para-psychologist investigate the hotel. You’ve guest it, the puppets come to life and begin to pick off the newcomers one, by one.
Unfortunately, the film suffers, as most 80’s horrors, from plot holes, some bad acting and awful dialogue. The stop motion and movement of the puppets is good but it has also dated. These faults aside Richards Bands music score is genuinely creepy and Director Charles Band creates some chilling moments. The killer puppets themselves are the stars of the show each with their own personality.
Unfortunately apart from the 2nd puppet master all of the sequels couldn’t match the quality of the first and second film in one way or another. One of the better low budget horror films of the 80’s. If any cult film deserves a re-imagining or remake it’s this one.
Eaters (2011)

The world is devastated by an epidemic and is overrun by hordes of living dead. Three men, Igor and Alen, hunters of dead and a scientist, Gyno try to find an answer to what has happened to the human race.

Everyone’s having a stab at the zombie/virus flick since 28 days Later – Spain with REC, Germany with Rammbock and France Le Horde to name a few.
Although Marmite director Uwe Boll has a producer credit, this shares little if anything with his films. Both writers/ Directors Luca Boni and Marco Ristori deliver a competently constructed bleak atmospheric zombie horror that is stylishly shot and presented in washed out colour.
Eaters opens with the standard zombie exposition affair of news clips how virus infection has spread. Gyno spins that the zombie epidemic maybe the next step in evolution while the hardened soldiers believe otherwise.
There’s some good zombie make up design, lopped off heads, blood, fried zombies, undead torture, skulls and exploding heads. Guns, grenades and machetes are used to dispose and there are some interesting kill scenes as the two hardened soldiers, Igor a likable hard-man played excellently by Alex Lucchesi and Alen notably by Guglielmo Favilla go to section F on a ‘corpse hunt’. Notable is chained up Alexis (Rosella Elmi) who is a carrier of the virus. Young actress Elisa Ferretti as Cristina deserves a mention.
Although Igor is likened to Leon it’s doctor Gyno played by Claudio Marmugi who is the Jean Reno-alike. He experiments on the dead, shooting them after their used, chopping them up, feeding them scraps reminiscent of Day of the Dead. Interesting the zombies here eat their own body parts, encounters with a Cultist group, slow/fast zombies and armed zombies add to the pleasure.
This serious slick Italian production is grim with a sense of black humour and irony there’s characters reading ‘corpse and girls’ magazine. Crazy Caravaggio painter of dead people. The score is similar to resident evil with electronic heavy beat and it had a few flash backs and eerie dream sequences deliver some jump moments.
Sector b’s Nazi group aside the script delivers some tension as madness sets in as the character try to pass time, humour feels unforced and the acting for the most part realistic. Eaters may have it’s faults debatably some CGI, editing and pacing issues but for the most part it’s a fulfilling ride. Although it borrows from the likes of Resident Evil Apocalypse and 28 Weeks Later to name a few there’s enough twists and originality as the leads try to accept their situation to prevent it becoming stale reinforced with an ending that goes against the clichés in the last act.
Gory, bloody and overall more fun than it should be due to it’s great execution and grimness.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.

Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.

Alien Undead, The Dark Lurking (2010)

20120111-192303.jpg Face eating monsters run amok in a  facility. The survivors try to escape the horrors of the creatures but the horror maybe within.

Also known as the marketable Alien Undead Gregory Connors offering  is an overlooked interesting piece of low budget film making.

Although borrowing an assortment of ideas and dialogue from many sci-fi’s, heavily from Aliens, The Cave and Event Horizon, Connors film has an odd alluring charm. Underneath the overpowering score uneven script and badly delivered dialogue there’s plenty to like. The effects, make up and gore  are for the most part effective. Stark white sets, grim corridors, rain drenched foliage and computer control rooms all add to the films interest. While some of the set ups are less effective than others and The Dark Lurking throws too many ideas in the pot it does for the most part deliver especially in atmosphere.

The cast are a mixed bag, notable are Tonia Renee, Bret Kennedy and Ozzie Devrish as Kirkland.

There’s some well executed gun play, great lighting and camera work.  Connors and the editor are wise not to linger too long. When the relentless imposing score is working it compliments the many great visuals perfectly.

Although lacking pace and originality its one of the better low budget sci-fi’s and certainly worth viewing.

Anyone that has listened my interviews over the years will know that I’m a fan of Hammer Horror films, but if I may add it’s in the oddest sense, they are not the greatest productions ever made but they have a Gothic, eerie, charm of their own with some fine performances, setting, sets, theatrical scores and things that go bump in the night.
I discussed this with the outlandish Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt, it became all to clear to me, having children of my own that Universal classics like ‘Dracula’, ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Frankenstein’ may never be seen not just by British youngsters but US and  the rest of worlds teens. That is unless they have some kind of horror influence in their lives and find stories, books , posters, of this genre of films intriguing to find out more.  Young people haven’t or don’t get the opportunity to see the older horror movies or Hammer films that inspired me and others like The Reptile (1966), The Gorgon (1964) and Plague of the Zombies (1966) to others such as From Beyond the Grave, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. So when I heard about @cyberschizoid’s campaign (on Twitter) to bring back classic horror to BBC 2,  I had to do my bit in joining in by telling you about my fantasy horror double bill.
Now while I could tell you about an array of UK productions from The Ghoul (1933) to Vampire Lovers(1970) and likes of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein. Personally I’d love to see Dead People (1974) or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) on the BBC 2 but I’ve chosen titles a possibly less obvious to most and not British. I believe they would make great first viewing and have the drawing power to intrigue, inspire and capture the imagination of new comers of the genre.  So in true tradition of those BBC 2 days gone by here are my thoughts on an oldie black and white, followed by a colour film just like they were aired way back when…
BBC take note, I’d be happy to sit in a large leather chair in front of a log fire, in a drawing room and introduce these… And I’m a lot cheaper than Terry Wogan or Jonathan Ross. So turn that tuner, wait for the TV to heat up, this is my horror double bill…
Okay first up is Carnival of Souls (1962) and not a surprise to old school fans. A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
And onto the next…
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti”  (original title) I know its Spanish/ Italian production but it’s set in England and feel very Brit.A crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses… 


A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is Atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead. 


I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

For more information about the campaign visit cyberschizoid blog

and check out fellow supporter Amanda Norman’s blog

The beauty of black and white photography aside, today’s black and white motion film is usually used as a nostalgic gimmick, with exceptions of the likes of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994). Apart from the obvious monster classics of the 30’s and 40’s there are countless black white (b/w) films regarded as ‘classic’. Purists and b/w  fans would probably have me locked up and flogged but I must admit I really do not think b/w adds to the aesthetics of a film. I would argue that the feel and atmosphere can stir the same emotions in colour pallet. To sum it up in a sentence, we don’t see life through our eyes in black and white.
 
Nevertheless many great films were made in black and white and some of those were very influential horrors which I’ve commented on below. I hope you enjoy and possibly seek out if you not seen them already…
 
 
House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Allegedly rousing Alfred Hitchcock to make the horror film – Psycho (1960), and while the setting is not as lavish as The Haunting (1963) the House on Haunted Hill is an entertaining 50’s movie.


Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren played wonderfully by Vincent Price invites 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a “haunted House” party and they’ll get $10,000 if they survive the night. The quirky house owner, Mr. Pritchard is played entertainingly by Elisha Cook Jr. and the rest of the cast are good enough.

Vincent Price is without a doubt the best thing about the film oozing charm, wit and panache. What is interesting and worthy of note is Robb White’s writing of the adultery plot that build the tension and interaction between Price and Ohmart. They are reminiscent intensified versions of the characters in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954).

While the stories ‘twist’ is well developed the large modern 50’s house story is not. There are some creepy moments that include the striking Carol Ohmart as Annabelle Loren but the lighting and sets are so crisp it fails to create any real brooding atmosphere and sadly a movie of its time, the women shriek a lot.

Should the house itself has been more traditional this may have been a near on perfect black and white chiller. Still, it’s good fun and worth checking out on a quiet dark night if even just to hear Price’s deep tones.
 


The Haunting (1963/I)

Dr. Markway is undertaking research to prove the existence of ghosts and decides to investigate Hill House. He is accompanied by a sceptic, a clairvoyant and an insecure attuned psychic. Even though made in 1963 it is still very enjoyable even if a product of its time.

Nelson Gidding screenplay is based on novel “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting is an archetype haunted mansion film, superbly directed by Robert Wise. Excellent, painstakingly designed sets, amazing use of sound effects bringing to life the things that go bump in the night, which all add to the eerie and spooky atmosphere.

Richard Johnson plays the perfect English gentleman, Dr. John Markway. Russ Tamblyn as the cheeky chap is amusing, Claire Bloom as ‘Theo’ the lesbian, at the time a risky role for mainstream cinema. The supporting cast of quirky characters are all fantastic.

My only complaints are is that the movie, for effect only, was unnecessary filmed in black and white. In addition, Julie Harris’ superfluous voice-overs are distracting.

It’s exceedingly atmospheric, foreboding, creepy and while the scares and terror are not as frightening to today’s audience, it remains a classic, psychological, genuine and suspenseful horror.


Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A. Romero has readily admitted that Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls influenced in his making of Night Of The Living Dead (NOTLD). For me, they’re both low budget, both filmed in black and white and both are chilling creepy in places.

Both went onto be get ‘lost’ but unlike Carnival of Souls, NOTLD was haled by critics abroad, who saw it not just as another horror movie, but a film that reflects society. Romero has gone on to define a genre, a feat that very few have accomplished. Many films have been influenced and have imitated George’s creation but few successfully.

NOLD is seeped in history and has become as intriguing as the chiller its self. There’s really not too much to comment on that hasn’t already been said before. The dead are played mindlessly well. Duane Jones is a fantastic lead actor and stands out, an actor ahead of his time but the others are less convincing.

The stock music is bold, and the sound is an adequate mix but all these things with their faults add to the charm of this little horror classic.

It’s dark, gloomy and entertaining but more importantly it was a turning point in horror history.


Carnival of Souls (1962)

A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.

The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
 

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The tag-line read ‘By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood’ if that doesn’t grab you as a horror fan, nothing will. Remade many times since as The Omega Man (1971), I am Legend (2007) to name a few, Richard Matheson novel I am Legend has been a wealthy piece of source material.


Despite Matheson feeling that Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role, Price gives a sterling performance as Dr. Robert Morgan who is the survivor of a devastating world-wide plague. Morgan is tortured by his dreams and his solitary existence trying to find another human still alive. Price’s distinguished voice and acting really gets the viewer hooked and caring for his character who is harassed by vampire zombies seeking his blood every night.

While not a faithful version of the novel it is well crafted by Ubaldo Ragona, who incidentally only directed a handful of films. Ragona’s work clearly influenced Romero’s set up of the horror classic Night of the living Dead (1968).

Admittedly The Last Man on Earth is slow in places and the music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is bland and of it’s time. Nevertheless, the locations are great featuring, bleak backdrops and curious architecture which leaves the viewer disconcerted.

What this unsung black and white chiller gem demonstrates best is that The Last Man on Earth shows what a fascinating and captivating actor Vincent Price was.