Thursday, 29 January 2015

Carnival of Souls (1962)

This film is credited with influencing both David Lynch and George Romero, and I can believe that this might be the case.  It's certainly visually stylish, using light and shadow in interesting ways and structuring shots to maximise a sense of eeriness and dislocation.  I can see the strong aesthetic (especially on a small budget) and "the macabre in the mundane" feeding into Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  Similarly, I can see the "nothing much actually happening" and narrative incoherence of the work leading the other man to make rubbish like Lost Highway.

Why no, I am not a fan of David Lynch.  However did you guess?

A pair of young men challenge three young women to a drag race in their cars.  The womens' car plunges off a bridge, and it appears the trio are all dead ... but then several hours after the accident, one of them emerges from the water.  This is obviously a little odd, but she seems disinterested in discussing the matter and heads off to a new job in Utah.

All is not entirely well, however.  She keeps seeing a strange, slightly macabre-looking man that no-one else seems able to perceive.  Also, there are a couple of short periods where no-one seems able to perceive her.  Which she finds a mite unsettling, to say the least.

I only wish I found it unsettling, as well.  However the truth is that despite the film's occasionally eerie visual sequences, far too much of it is given over to talky talky talk talk between actors of mediocre talent.  This keeps sucking any tension away from the film.  Even without that though, I think it would founder.  "Woman catches glimpse of odd-looking guy every ten minutes or so" is not actually all that scary when the guy never does anything.  Frankly, I found the romantic sub-plot with her next door neighbour to be creepier: now there's the guy she should be wary of, if you ask me.

Anyway, things are obviously a bit odd in this woman's life. I won't spoil the details, in case you want to see the film, but in my opinion it really doesn't go anywhere especially interesting in the end.

This is worth your time only if you are a fan of spooky stories that are very light on the actual spookiness, or are an aficionado of black and white photography.

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