Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1962, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Herk Hervey’s hypnotic and haunting Carnival Of Souls, the story of a woman struggling to fit in with her new town after she survives a car crash.
Sales: 3. A tricky one for older movies, but especially tricky for a movie like this. First off, it failed to make any real business upon release, but has since seen many versions released and re-releases in certain regions for Halloween. Second, it was super low budget and therefor didn’t require much business to make a profit. Depending on how you define sales and performance, you could go with anything here. I’ll go down the middle, erring on positive due to the fact that it still makes some money today and it’s miniscule budget.
Critical Consensus: 4. As above, the film went largely unnoticed upon release. It wasn’t until the film made more of an impact in Europe, until it repeated on Television, and until new filmmakers who saw it as kids were old enough to cite it as an influence that critics began to revaluate it. Since then it has been praised as a classic. I’m not sure we can go with a 5 here due to its dismissal early on, and due to it still not being universally praised due to its amateur, low budget qualities.
Director: 4. It’s a 3 or 4 – you can tell there are a few decisions which were due to this being a first time director and possibly the film would have been stronger had he already made a few features. However, as a first time attempt and with the monetary constraints, Harvey still managed to make an incredibly effective and influential horror movie.
Performances: 3. This is where I can expect people to go lower. Hilligoss is good and everyone else is by the by.
Characters: 3. Again, it’s all about Mary, the main character. The side characters exist to serve her story, literally, and even ‘The Man’ and others are just spooks. 2 is fine here.
Cinematography: 4. Restricted by a lack of funds, necessity became the prime directive, and the results are impressive and memorable.
Writing: 3. A few memorable quotes but nothing outside of the ordinary.
Plot: 3. I’d like to go with a 4, but around this time so many stories were being filmed with similar premises and endings – The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents for starters. The result has more of an artistic lilt and there’s more time to build up character and suspense, but it’s not too different from the aforementioned shows.
Wardrobe: 3. Sure.
Editing: 3. Yes.
Make up and Hair: 4. I’ll go 4 here because of the high impact of the less is more approach.
Effects: 3. Nothing we would consider today as effects, more tricks of the cinematographer.
Art and Set: 3. Mostly location, and mostly filming without permits, which is always nice.
Sound And Music: 4. Music is a major part of the movie, more of a character than many of the characters, and the sound design is pretty great too all things considered, with screams, splashes, and hums to chilling effect. The organ music may lack fully defined and memorable melodies, but instead creates a barrage of mood.
Cultural Significance: 4. It went on to become influential with many directors citing it as a personal favourite and it garnered a remake. I’m sure another remake will be on the cards. While it’s not a Rocky Horror style constant revival, it does frequently play each October either on small or big screen.
Accomplishment: 4. For the money, for lacking a star, for it disappearing and returning in such a way, I think 3 is the baseline and 4 seems correct. I could respect a 5.
Stunts: 3. One of the key moments of the film involves a car race and crash – by today’s standards it’s not the most exciting and even in the time it was released there were much bigger and elaborate stunts. Still, it’s brief and more importantly integral to everything which follows.
Originality: 3. I’ll go down the middle because while there are twists a modern viewer can see where the story is going, yet it deals with a number of philosophical concepts in an interesting, artistic way.
Miscellaneous: 4. I still love the fact that such a low budget, clever film was made, ignored, and eventually found fame – going on to influence some of the biggest names inside and outside of horror for the rest of the century.
Personal: 4. It’s not perfect, but it is seminal. Most importantly, it’s still creepy and haunting.
Total Score: 69/100.
It doesn’t quite reach the coveted 70 score, but that’s still a respectable score for a movie so few outside of the dedicated horror family will have seen. Let us know what you think of Carnival of Souls in the comments!