Horror On The Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Well, we’re nearly done with October and, traditionally, this is when all of us in the Shattered Lens Bunker gather in front of the television in Arleigh’s penthouse suite, eat popcorn, drink diet coke, and gossip about whoever has the day off.

Of course, after we do that, I duck back into my office and I watch the classic 1962 film, Carnival of Souls!

Reportedly, David Lynch is a huge fan of Carnival of Souls and, when you watch the film, it’s easy to see why.  The film follows a somewhat odd woman (played, in her one and only starring role, by Candace Hilligoss) who, after a car accident, is haunted by visions of ghostly figures.  This dream-like film was independently produced and distributed.  At the time, it didn’t get much attention but it has since been recognized as a classic and very influential horror film.

This was director Herk Harvey’s only feature film.  Before and after making this film, he specialized in making educational and industrial shorts (some of which we’ve watched this month), the type of films that encouraged students not to cheat on tests and employees not to take their jobs for granted.  Harvey also appears in this film, playing “The Man” who haunts Hilligoss as she travels across the country.

Enjoy Carnival of Souls!

And remember, don’t stop for any hitchhikers!

Horror On The Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Well, we are halfway through October and, traditionally, that’s when all of us in the Shattered Lens Bunker gather in front of the television in Arleigh’s penthouse suite, eat popcorn, drink diet coke, and gossip about whoever has the day off.

Of course, after we do that, I duck back into my office and I watch the classic 1962 film, Carnival of Souls!

Reportedly, David Lynch is a huge fan of Carnival of Souls and, when you watch the film, it’s easy to see why.  The film follows a somewhat odd woman (played, in her one and only starring role, by Candace Hilligoss) who, after a car accident, is haunted by visions of ghostly figures.  This dream-like film was independently produced and distributed.  At the time, it didn’t get much attention but it has since been recognized as a classic and very influential horror film.

This was director Herk Harvey’s only feature film.  Before and after making this film, he specialized in making educational and industrial shorts, the type of films that encouraged students not to cheat on tests and employees not to take their jobs for granted.  Harvey also appears in this film, playing “The Man” who haunts Hilligoss as she travels across the country.

Enjoy Carnival of Souls!

Horror on the Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Much like watching Plan 9 From Outer SpaceNight of the Living DeadTreevenge, or Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, watching the 1962 independent film Carnival of Souls is a bit of a holiday tradition here at the Shattered Lens.

And you know how much I love tradition!

Directed in a dream-like fashion by Herk Harvey (who also directed several of the educational short films that I’ve occasionally shared on this site, including CheatingThe Show-OffandThe Gossip), Carnival of Souls tells the story of Mary (Candace Hilligoss) who, after a car accident, finds herself haunted by visions of ghostly figures.  Independently produced and distributed, Carnival of Souls did not get much attention when it was originally released but it is now generally acknowledged as a horror classic.  Reportedly, David Lynch loves this movie and, when you watch it, you’ll be able to see why!

It’s October.  It’s 16 more days ’til Halloween.  It’s time to watch Carnival of Souls!

Horror on the Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Carnivalofsoulsposters

Much like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, Night of the Living Dead, Treevenge, or Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, watching the 1962 independent film Carnival of Souls is a bit of a holiday tradition here at the Shattered Lens.

And you know how much I love tradition!

Directed in a dream-like fashion by Herk Harvey (who also directed several of the educational short films that I’ve occasionally shared on this site, including Cheating, The Show-Off, andThe Gossip), Carnival of Souls tells the story of Mary (Candace Hilligoss) who, after a car accident, finds herself haunted by visions of ghostly figures.  Independently produced and distributed, Carnival of Souls did not get much attention when it was originally released but it is now generally acknowledged as a horror classic.  Reportedly, David Lynch loves this movie and, when you watch it, you’ll be able to see why!

It’s October.  It’s 9 more days ’til Halloween.  It’s time to watch Carnival of Souls!

Horror on the Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Carnivalofsoulsposters

Much like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, Night of the Living Dead, Treevenge, or Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, watching the 1962 independent film Carnival of Souls is a bit of a holiday tradition here at the Shattered Lens.

And you know how much I love tradition!

Directed in a dream-like fashion by Herk Harvey (who also directed several of the educational short films that I’ve occasionally shared on this site, including Cheating, The Show-Off, and The Gossip), Carnival of Souls tells the story of Mary (Candace Hilligoss) who, after a car accident, finds herself haunted by visions of ghostly figures.  Independently produced and distributed, Carnival of Souls did not get much attention when it was originally released but it is now generally acknowledged as a horror classic.  Reportedly, David Lynch loves this movie and, when you watch it, you’ll be able to see why!

It’s October.  It’s 11 more days ’til Halloween.  It’s time to watch Carnival of Souls.

Horror on the Lens: Carnival of Souls (dir by Herk Harvey)


Carnivalofsoulsposters

Herk Harvey’s 1962 film Carnival of Souls is a film that we’ve shared on the Shattered Lens before but I have no problem sharing it again.  After Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is involved in an auto accident, she is haunted by frightening visions and finds herself followed by mysterious figures.  Directed in a dream-like fashion and featuring an impressive performance from Candace Hilligoss, Carnival of Souls is a classic example of independent American cinema and it’s a bit of a Halloween tradition around these parts.

Enjoy!

Horror Music


I suppose if I asked most people what music they identified with horror, John Carpenter’s “Halloween Theme” and Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (The Exorcist) would come up first. After that, you’d get a lot of Rob Zombie and Glenn Danzig. So right off the bat, you’re looking at an enormous variety of sounds and styles connected mainly by association. While John Carpenter’s work was intentionally composed for the film in which it appeared, “Tubular Bells” was originally a 50 minute progressive rock opus that was anything but sinister or foreboding in its full form. Misfits was a goth punk band that happened to favor horror themes. White Zombie’s horror imagery was more a matter of crudeness and vulgarity in the spirit of GWAR; their sound was a frontrunner in the emergence of industrial groove metal, and the greatest “horror” associated with Rob was the countless terrible nu metal spinoffs. A couple of “top ten horror songs” lists I stumbled upon even list Bobby Boris Pickett’s “Monster Mash” and Richard O’Brien’s “Time Warp”. I mean, “Monster Mash” is a fun Halloween song, sure, but horror? Really? And the Rocky Horror Picture Show does make me want to vomit, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

Suffice to say, “horror” music is not a genre at all. Simply associating a song with a scene or theme is enough to relate them; Huey Lewis and the News will probably make me smile and think of Christian Bale chopping people to bits in his apartment for the rest of my life. But there are definitely certain musical attributes that conjure in us a less glitzy feeling of dread than Hellbilly Deluxe. That skittering cockroach beat in the background of Halloween is completely unnerving; Carnival music is way creepier than Stephen King’s It; Black Sabbath’s appreciation for diabolus in musica virtually invented heavy metal; and it took a firm dose of the blues in 1988 for Danzig to capture a sense of the sinister that Misfits could never convey.

I don’t believe that any particular musical formula is the coalescence of evil. The music we find most haunting is derived from association too, but it connects in more subtle ways than say, the fact that a particular song appears in a horror film or mentions witches in the chorus. The real deal distorts what comforts us, denies our sense of order, and pries upon our innocence. Through a musical medium as through any other, horror focuses on shattering the lens through which we perceive reality as an ordered, logical construct. It reminds us of the real nightmares in life while nullifying our means to counteract them. It takes us to the world of the child, where emotional extremes enhance our senses of comfort and terror alike.

The carnival tune and music box are prime targets, conjuring in our minds a time when fear was more potent. The brief piano loop, the simple hum, the monotone drone–these bring us to solitude and isolation through minimalism. Effective horror themes offer no comforting symphony or rock ensemble to encase us in a nuanced world. They surround us with something singular and far from warm, or with nothing at all. The wind chimes warn of a storm; when none is coming, the darkness is all the more unnatural. The cathedral bell, a sign of fellowship on a Sunday morning, also tolls for death. A twitch, a buzz, a repeated knocking, a bit of static–things that would otherwise annoy us–exploit the close connection between discomfort and tension.

Or else we can completely overwhelm the senses with noise that strips away the familiarity which typically diminishes extreme music’s effect, leaving us a nervous wreck. When Blut Aus Nord chose to employ programmed, industrial blast beats in their 777 trilogy, they effectively eliminated the one element of the music that would have sounded too familiar to disturb. Instead, the epileptic guitar finds companionship in a persistent, unnatural clatter designed to place us permanently on edge.

Other bands have found other means to the same end. Peste Noire’s unique “black ‘n’ roll” sound enlivens a standard formula for “evil” music with a pep and a grin, giving the brutalizer a human face in the spirit of medieval sadism. Sunn O))) are inclined to drone on for ages, developing a false sense of comfort before infusing their deep buzz with a caterwaul of shrill pitches and clattering chimes. (I actually had a guy start freaking out on me at work one day when “Cry For The Weeper”, which he didn’t even notice playing, hit the 3:55 mark.)

And lastly, we can’t forget the power of lyrics to render a song gruesome. The stereotypical lines of a black metal song–nonsense about necromoonyetis and an appeal to Satanism far less disturbing than the average Christian commentator on Fox News–are pure cheese, and they entertain us in a manner similar to your typical zombie flick. But when you first heard Smashing Pumpkin’s “x.y.u.”, you probably got a feeling more akin to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Horror in lyrics is something a bit the opposite of horror in sound; it strikes us most deeply when we can be convinced that there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. There are certainly a few exceptions–Townes Van Zandt’s tall tale in “Our Mother the Mountain” chills me to the bone–but generally speaking, the real atrocities committed throughout human history far exceed the limits of our imaginations. Vlad Tepes was worse than any vampire, and from Elizabeth Bathory and Ariel Castro to Hernando Cortes and Adolf Hitler, we are flooded by examples of direct personal cruelty and dehumanized mass slaughter. When a song manages to make us think of these individuals and events beyond the safety blanket of historical narrative, an authentic feeling or horror is hard to deny.

Horror Film Review: Carnival of Souls (dir. by Herk Harvey)


Good morning and welcome to Oct. 28th!  Can you feel Halloween creeping closer?

Creeping doom is also the theme of today’s public domain horror film — Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls.  First released in 1962, Carnival of Souls was an independent film that was made for $33,000.  It didn’t get much notice when it was first released but it has since gone on to become one of the quintessential cult films.  David Lynch, for one, loves this movie and it’s easy to see why.

The story of Carnival of Souls is a familiar one and I’d be surprised if the final twist was even that surprising when the film was first released.  However, even if the plot is familiar, this is a moody film full of atmosphere and dream-like images.  The film’s organ-dominated score has become a classic.  Lead actress Candice Hilligoss made her film debut here and would only appear in one more film.

Allow me to present to you now, Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls

Review: Sole Survivor (Dir. by Thom Eberhardt)


In my “which movie should I review poll” 1983’s Sole Survivor came in dead last, receiving a total of 3 votes out of the 234 cast.  I really wasn’t surprised to see that because Sole Survivor, along with having a dreadfully generic title, isn’t really that well-known.  I found the DVD at Half-Price Books where it was being sold for a dollar in the clearance section.  If not for the fact that I can’t resist a bargain, I would never have heard of this movie either.  Which is a shame because, taken on its own low-budget terms, Sole Survivor is actually a pretty effective horror film.

Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, Sole Survivor has a plot that should be familiar with anyone who has ever seen any of the Final Destination films.  Denise (played by an actress named Anita Skinner) is a neurotic commercial producer who, as the film opens, is the sole survivor of a horrendous airplane crash.  (When we first see Denise, she’s still sitting in her seat, surrounded by the remains of her fellow passengers.)  Against the advice of just about everyone, Denise insists on dealing with the trauma of the accident by trying to return to her normal life.  This is complicated, however, by the fact that she’s still having dreams about the plane crash.  Everywhere she looks, she sees mysterious and menacing strangers watching her.  And, on top of everything else, she is now being stalked by a mentally unstable former actress who claims to be having nightmarish visions of Denise’s future.  Is Denise suffering from survivor’s guilt (as her doctor boyfriend insists) or is she instead being pursued by Death?  If you’ve ever seen a horror film, you can probably guess the answer.

As I mentioned previously, its easy to compare Sole Survivor with the Final Destination films.  However, a more appropriate comparison would be to the 1962 black-and-white classic Carnival of Souls.  Whereas the Final Destination films are largely about coming up with ludicrously convoluted ways for Death to get what he or she wants, Sole Survivor (like Carnival of Souls)  is less concerned with how Death gets the job done and more concerned with building and maintaining a growing sense of dread and hopelessness.  For the most part, director Eberhardt disdains easy shock effects in order to concentrate on building up a palpable atmosphere of doom.  As a result, the film can occasionally seem to be a little slow but it stays with you even after the final credit. 

Also, much like Carnival of Souls, Sole Survivor features an excellent lead performance from an actress who, more or less, disappeared from movie screens after the film’s release.  Carnival had Candace Hilligoss.  Sole Survivor has Anita Skinner.  Skinner gives an excellent lead performance, always remaining a sympathetic.  According to an interview with the film’s producers, Skinner was uncomfortable with the more excessive side of Hollywood and retired from acting shortly after making Sole Survivor.

Sole Survivor was released on DVD by Code Red, so now people like me can appreciate this neglected movie.  The transfer looks great.  Unfortunately, the DVD is pretty thin when it comes to extras.  Neither Eberhadt nor Skinner are interviewed nor do they contribute to the film’s commentary track.  Instead, we have to make due with the film’s producers.  In general, producers usually provide the worst DVD commentary tracks with typical insights running along the lines of “We had the same lawyer” and “So, after that, we brought in another screenwriter.”  The producers of Sole Survivor aren’t quite that bad but their commentary is still definitely lacking in insight. 

But that’s a minor complaint.  In the end, what matters is the movie and not the commentary track.  And as a movie, Sole Survivor is a an overlooked classic of the horror genre.