New York Times - 07/19/1989
"...Cult horror....Carries an eerie chill..."
Los Angeles Times - 04/20/1990
"...A genuinely creepy movie....In its own quietly lurid way, CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a sophisticated piece of character psychology..."
USA Today - 05/19/1990
"...This black-belt cult item feels a lot like a vintage Twilight Zone episode..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Herk Harvey's macabre masterpiece gained a cult following through late night television and has been bootlegged for years. Made by industrial fimmakers on a modest budget, Carnival of Souls was intended to have the "look of a Bergman" and "feel of a Cocteau," and succeeds with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score. Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) survives a drag race in a rural Kansas town, then takes a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she becomes haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her to an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Criterion is proud to present the ultimate special edition of this eerily effective B-movie classic that continues to inspire filmmakers today.
Made in 1962 on an extremely low budget, Herk Harvey's classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS has become legendary for its ability to create a tensely creepy atmosphere with virtually no special effects. A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) is involved in a car crash when her car falls off a bridge while drag racing with some friends. After she pulls herself from the river, she moves to a new town to take a job as a church organist. Meanwhile, a distinctly eerie and hollow-faced man seems to be following her wherever she goes, while an abandoned lakeside amusement park beckons her with an almost gravitational pull. The effective organ score enhances the film to great effect, as do the bleak landscapes of Utah's salt flats.
The first feature from Harvey, who had previously made industrial and promotional films for the Centron Corporation in Lawrence, Kansas, CARNIVAL OF SOULS developed a cultlike following despite being rarely screened for nearly thirty years. The TWILIGHT ZONE-esque tale of a woman who is in a car crash, only to find herself being pursued by spirits, the film's strength is its ability to sustain a very disturbing atmosphere with little more than some makeup, an eerie organ score and spare black-and-white photography. Harvey achieved his stated mission: for the film to have the "look of a Bergman" and the "feel of a Cocteau."
VidAmerica's release of "Carnival of Souls" was taken from a newly-struck 35mm print of the complete 80-minute director's cut. Other versions of the film exist, most taken from inferior prints and only running 73 minutes.
Filmed on location in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in Lawrence, Kansas, and at the Centron Studios in Lawrence. Centron made industrial, educational, and social guidance films in the 1950's and 1960's, employing director Herk Harvey, screenwriter John Clifford, and most of "Carnival"'s technical staff. Director Robert Altman also made industrial films for Centron during this period.