Carnival of Souls

Five great horror soundtracks to play this Halloween

It’s finally Halloween! The greatest night of the year. We’ll wake up tomorrow to a world of Christmas music, but for tonight: the world is ours, horror fans!

I love a good horror movie soundtrack any time, but I’ve chosen five of my favourites to listen to tonight. Don’t (or do) listen to them alone tonight. But be sure to lock the doors.

1. Deep Red (Profondo rosso) by Goblin and Giorgio Gaslini

Goblin’s soundtrack for Suspiria typically gets more love. I get it, it’s one hell of a soundtrack (and my personal top five). But there’s something very interesting and exciting about Profondo rosso. This giallo’s score switches seamlessly between Goblin’s progressive sounds, to the incredibly creeping singing of a child, to Gaslini’s more traditional pieces. Even if you just seek out the title track, it’s worth it. But “Mad Puppet” is really the jewel in the crown here. It’s a bit funky, like if you feeling a bit cool before you’re about to die.

2. Halloween (2018) by John and Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies

Including this just because you’ve probably listened to the original once or twice already. This is an updated take on Carpenter’s soundtrack from the 1978 original, and it feels a lot more industrial because of it. Come for the familiarity, stay for the excellence.

3. City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi aka Fear in the Town of the Living Dead)by Fabio Frizzi

Ominous and foreboding, this is Frizzi at his finest. City of the Dead is surreal and shocking (like most of Lucio Fulci’s work), but Frizzi has always complimented his vision well. It might not be your favourite movie, but the soundtrack is always glorious.

4. It Follows by Disasterpiece

Easily the most unsettling on this list. While It Follows is already a few years old now, its soundtrack still sounds like the future of horror. You can find its 80s synth inspirations everywhere now. While there are lighter moments (“Jay”, “Detroit”), much of the soundtrack builds to painful stretches of suspense (“Heels”). I can’t listen to “Inquiry” without getting goosebumps. Sure, it’s just music, but are you sure there’s nothing following you?

5. Carnival of Souls by Gene Moore

Want to remember those fond feelings of being terrified in church? Well, look no further than this eerie organ-based soundtrack by Gene Moore. The music immediately invokes the feelings of loneliness and desperation Mary feels throughout her journey. Definitely not one great to play at parties. This was movie made on a shoestring budget, but somehow the soundtrack (and the movie) defied all of that to create something really special.

What will you be listening tonight? Sticking to “The Monster Mash”? Probably for the best…if you want to sleep tonight.

Wicked Wednesday: Carnival of Souls (1962)

“I don’t belong in the world. That’s what it is. Something separates me from other people.”

Most weeks when I finish watching my movies for Wicked Wednesday, my feels can be summed up as “ambivalent.” Neither irritating enough to complain about nor good enough to remember. Some weeks the movies are “fun” or “amusing” but occasionally I find something that really strikes a chord.

Carnival of Souls is a beautiful, haunting movie about loneliness. It’s also a movie about ghosts. But what’s really important is that it’s really fucking good.

One day, during a drag race, a car careens off a bridge and into the water. The three women inside are presumed dead after searching the river. Only one girl, Mary, emerges looking bedraggled and unable to remember anything about the accident.

Mary isn’t everyone’s favourite. She’s distant and detached. Even more so after the accident. She leaves town to go to her new job as a church organist.

On her drive to Utah, she sees an abandoned building that immediately captures her attention. But while studying it, a ghostly man appears as a reflection in her passenger window. She swerves off the road when his image appears again in her windshield. She stops at a local gas station where the man tells her it was once a bath house, a dance hall and finally a carnival.

Once Mary arrives at her new home, she immediately puts off her walls. She doesn’t want to meet the congregation. She doesn’t want to mingle with her fellow tenant (a creep named John). But she does agree to a drive with a minister, which takes her closer to the pavilion.

Mary begins to see The Man, as she calls him, around the town. She sees him in her lodgings, but her land lady tells her the only man in the building is John.

Things begin to get stranger for Mary. While trying on new clothes she realises that she can’t hear anyone speak, and no one seems to even notice her. She begins to panic at a park when a doctor finds her and offers to help.

Dr Samuels explains to her that her visions of The Man could be manifestations of her guilt. Simply tricks of her imagination.

Despite the doctors suggestions, Mary doesn’t believe him. She decides to visit the pavilion again – alone.  Strange, little things begin to happen. Like items moving on their own. An illustration of her isolation from others.

John, the other tenant, continues to pursue Mary and after he calls her cold, she agrees to go out on a date with him that night. But before either date, Mary goes to the church to play on the organ. She gets swept up in the music, and begins to play something melodic and strange. The minister begins furious with her and asks for her resignation.

With that little treat to set the mood, Mary spends much of her date with John in a foul mood. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t want to drink. And she doesn’t want to dance. After getting John angry with her, she begins to insist that she needs to be with him.

John, being a perv, believes that means Mary wants to be with him and begins to come on to her. When she resists, he leaves. She barricades herself in the room until the following morning after Dr Samuels examines her.

Mary begins her journey to try and leave. Only the village doesn’t seem to want to let her go. She slowly spirals into a sort of madness. A realisation that something isn’t right. That she doesn’t belong in the world.

The ending of Carnival of Souls is perhaps predictable, but it’s still satisfying. Each scene has great cinematography that helps build a sense of delirium.

Carnival of Souls is a ‘fun’ movie to pick apart and dissect, particularly the ending. While it is intentionally abstract, the movie never makes itself feel unnecessarily complex. Sure, it’s a film about ghosts, but it also captures the feeling of helplessness, and emotion and mental disconnect. Things you don’t have to be a ghoul to understand.

This was the only feature-length film made by director Herk Harvey (who also plays The Man). That only seems to add mystique around the movie itself. If Harvey had mysteriously disappeared before its release, I’d assume I was watching Popcorn again.

One of the most commonly noted things about Carnival is it’s incredibly tiny budget ($33,000). What Harvey managed to achieve was nothing short of incredible. It helped that actress Candace Hilligoss is completely mesmerising as the wide-eyed, tortured Mary.

I’m definitely late to the game when it comes to watching Carnival of Souls (that theatrical poster is really misleading), but all that matters is that I got here in the end. Right? But don’t make the same mistakes I did. Watch it. Love it. Have sweet dreams of dancing ghouls.