373) Carnival of Souls (1963) Dir: Herk Harvey Date Released: September 1962 Date Seen: October 30, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
The psychological component of the stifling atmosphere in Herk Harvey's cult classic Carnival of Souls is really the heart of the film. Which is strange, because the film is widely remembered for its proto-zombies, living corpses created by the survivor's guilt of Mary (Candace Hilligoss), the only person to survive after a car full of her friends skids off a suspension bridge. These Roy Andersson extras are patently unnecessary, considering how disquieting Harvey's camerawork is. Thanks to Harvey's tracking, crane shots and the film's ethereal soundtrack, the viewer is immersed in a vast, desolate space within a small Everytown, USA. More so than the dead people Mary sees and probably more than the fits of invisibility she undergoes every now and then, the scenes where the camera shows her wandering around in an ever-expanding environment provides the film with its emotional complexity (though John Clifford's script isn't anything to sneeze at either; his disdain for the church is inescapable but thankfully not hysterical, creating a satisfyingly knotty context for Mary's malaise). After seeing what Mary's feeling in such a poetic and spare way, the walking dead are a joke.
Note: Would anyone buy it if I said that in the same way that Lost Highway is Lynch's homage to Kiss Me, Deadly that Mulholland Drive is his tribute to Carnival of Souls?