Keep your hands and arms in at all times.
|"Step right up!"|
Not that the original 1962 film is all that bad for an independent B-film. The story-line is a bit confusing, but it is well acted, tightly paced, and visually appealing. According to my research, the film enjoys a bit of a cult status because, like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the copyright was left off of the final print, sending it instantly into the public domain, thus freeing it for decades of late-night television viewing.
I wish I could say such nice things about the 1998 remake, but not even tacking "Wes Craven presents" onto the title could raise this flop. The acting is stilted, the directing is bland, and the script treatment would make "Lifetime presents" a more appropriate billing header.
The original Carnival of Souls stars the little-know Candice Hilligoss (IMDb lists only one other film role) as Mary Henry, a young woman who mysteriously survives a crash where her car drove into a river. Mary is a professional organist, and talented, but her demeanor is cold and aloof. It is suggested that this is different from the way she behaved before her accident.
|Moody, artsy, intriguing.|
In the end, Mary returns to the pavilion which has drawn her since her arrival. The ghouls are there, and they pursue her. The next day a single set of foot prints are found in the sand leading away from the pavilion, ending abruptly in the middle of the beach. Back at the river, the car is being towed out—with Mary’s body inside.
The ending is a bit of a rug-puller, the twist isn’t logically foreshadowed and the fact that Mary was dead the whole time raises a lot of unanswerable questions.
None of this is to say that the film's cult status isn’t entirely deserved. The real star of the film is the stylish directing by Herk Harvey. Visually, Carnival is two films. One is sparse and ordinary, the other is stylish and moody. For the most part, the switches occur in sync with what is going on in the film, though at times it seems a bit haphazard. In a couple of important scenes, Harvey makes beautiful use of a pipe organ as a subject for the camera. The other star of the film is the score performed appropriately on organ. Its eerie sounds and haunting melodies heighten the mood of the film. Even if the script is a bit puzzling, the cinematic qualities of the film do make it noteworthy.
But if the original film was confusing, the remake just feels like a rip-off. In spite of being a remake, the newer film bears little resemblance to the original aside from the reveal at the end.
Honestly, the remake is so bad, I can’t even bear to write a full synopsis. All you really need to know is that as a child, Alex Grant witnessed a carnival clown rape and murder her mother. Yes, you read that right: clown rape. As an adult, Alex (Bobbie Phillips) is haunted by visions of the killer. Oh, and if there was a lack of carnival in the original, the remake more than makes up for that.
|Pennywise called. He |
wants his balloons back.
Worse than that, the new Carnival seems to be trying to capture the essence of creepy clowns a la Stephen King’s IT, but it fails miserably. Personally, I draw the line at faceless monsters that have nothing to do with story in any way conceivable. That is apparently where I part ways with the producers.
I wish I could say that the new Carnival has one saving grace, but even where it should, it doesn’t. In the original, the reveal at the end is a head-scratcher. In the new one, the end is unambiguous, but it makes you feel like you wasted 90 minutes of your life. Here, Alex has clearly died at the beginning, and the whole film was her prolonged dying hallucination. As was popularly said in the late 90’s, “been there, done that.”