Watch the Cult Classic Horror Film Carnival of Souls (1962)

carnival of souls

Herk Har­vey had a suc­cess­ful career as a direc­tor and pro­duc­er of edu­ca­tion­al and indus­tri­al movies in Lawrence, Kansas, but he longed for some­thing more. After all, fel­low Kansas film­mak­er Robert Alt­man had made the leap from indus­tri­al flicks to Hol­ly­wood, so why couldn’t he?

The result­ing movie, Car­ni­val of Souls (1962), became a cult clas­sic influ­enc­ing the likes of George Romero, James Wan and David Lynch. Mary (played by Can­dace Hilligoss, the only trained actor in the cast) mys­te­ri­ous­ly sur­faces after an ill-fat­ed drag race sends her car off a bridge and into a deep riv­er. Unmoored and unable to remem­ber what hap­pened, she flees her home­town and ends up in Salt Lake City where she takes a gig as a church organ­ist. She tries to make a life there but is plagued by an oth­er­world­ly stranger with a paper white mask of evil (played by Har­vey him­self.)

Now in the pub­lic domain, Car­ni­val is a slow burn of dread that relies on few cheap jumps and lit­tle gore. Instead, Har­vey cre­ates a sparse world of alien­ation and creep­ing hys­te­ria like an Edward Hop­per paint­ing gone psy­chot­ic. Harvey’s inspi­ra­tions were clear­ly more art house than Ham­mer hor­ror. Echoes of F. W. Mur­nau, Ing­mar Bergman and Jean Cocteau abound. Yet the curi­ous­ly som­nam­bu­late act­ing exhib­it­ed by most of the cast along with the movie’s freaky organ sound­track gives the film the vibe of a par­tic­u­lar­ly night­mar­ish Ed Wood movie.

Car­ni­val made a mod­est show­ing on the dri­ve-in cir­cuit when it came out but it didn’t become a cult clas­sic until lat­er in the 60s when it start­ed play­ing on late-night TV. Har­vey, how­ev­er, nev­er made anoth­er fea­ture.

You can watch the com­plete movie above, or find it in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Out­er Space: “The Worst Movie Ever Made,” “The Ulti­mate Cult Flick,” or Both?

The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari: See the Restored Ver­sion of the 1920 Hor­ror Clas­sic with Its Orig­i­nal Col­or Tint­ing

Time Out Lon­don Presents The 100 Best Hor­ror Films: Start by Watch­ing Four Hor­ror Clas­sics Free Online

Mar­tin Scors­ese Names the 11 Scari­est Hor­ror Films: Kubrick, Hitch­cock, Tourneur & More

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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