Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dead Can Dance

Netflix sent me my latest cache of DVD's the other day, and there amongst them was a little movie I'd almost forgotten I'd ordered.

Carnival of Souls.

Once, whenI was very young, my cousin Linda was babysitting me and my younger sister. This was back when we lived in Philadelphia. Anyway, it was always a good thing when Linda was the sitter because she'd let us stay up and watch "Double Thriller Theatre" which was broadcast on one of the local UHF channels (now am I showing my age when I use the term, UHF?).

This night they were showing a movie called Carnival of Souls, and as Linda served us popcorn and Franks Grape Soda, my sister and I sat wide eyed drinking in a film that pretty much kept us both mortified as well as wide awake for several nights.

Carnival is the story of a young woman who seems to survive a car wreck and is then haunted by a ghoulish male figure everywhere she goes. As the movie progresses, the heroine experiences more freakish episodes including moments when she seems to be invisible to everyone around her. Eventually, she finds her self drawn to an old pavilion by a lake and while there she innocently tosses a coin into the water... what the audience sees next, and what caused me and my sister so much trauma, was when the coin enters the lake, it settles down next to the ghoul man who is laying under the water. The cameras focuses on his face and then, BOO! he opens his eyes and sits up.

Needless to say, that was the scene that did us in. There was more to the film but that pretty much was the moment that has stayed with me and haunted me for thirty some years.

Last night after god knows how many years, I watched Carnival of Souls again.

Now you know how this goes, something from your childhood you recall that made such an impact on you is usually not as big a deal when you see it or experience it again as an adult, right?


This creepy little B-film still holds up. Yeah, some of the acting is stilted and a few times it does seem that the continuity is a bit off, but those are just nitpicking bits, the movie is still a scary creation, it's something that definitely sneaks up on the viewer and gets under your skin.

Watching last night, I was surprised that the ghoul underwater scene which was still effective was almost matched by a scene that was equally as creepy; this is the moment when the formerly abandoned pavilion is now full of raccoon eyed specters all waltzing with each other. Moreover, I noticed something else about the film; the story of a young woman disassociated from the world around her, aloof, alone in a twilight land of sorts, pushing away any human contact or any kindness by anyone...some pretty heavy themes for a B-Film.

That said, I guess I'll be sleeping with my night light tonight, and for the next several nights thanks to a seldom seen film made many years ago, and thanks to a night in the mid 1960's when my cousin helped warp my impressionable little mind.

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