How the Carnival of Souls influenced horror films for generations

In a way, Herc Harvey directed the low-budget classic Carnival of Souls for $33,000. It’s an amazing movie that has inspired many low-budget horror favorites as well as being a kind of guide for how to make a great movie for almost no money. After aesthetically influencing filmmakers like George A. Romero and David Lynch, six decades later, the film has continued to influence do-it-yourself horror films around the world.


Herk Harvey worked for Centron Corporation in Kansas, directing hundreds of educational and industrial films during his career, which have been used by corporations and government for training and public outreach purposes. He originally joined as an actor but quickly became a famous and prolific director. Carnival of Souls Filmed in Lawrence, Kansas, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The boss used his co-workers to provide him with cheap help. He ignored the rules and, because of his vast experience as an instructional director, knew how to get the best materials at the cheapest prices.

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Despite his extremely prolific career, Carnival of Souls It was Harvey’s only feature film. Due to some bad experiences (editing the film against the director’s will, and an ultimately incompetent and misleading ad campaign), the film did poorly and Harvey never returned to the realm of low-budget horror, which is a shame. Harvey used his experience in the industrial film industry in order to make a horror movie that was cheaper, grittier, and more realistic than people were used to, and as time went by, Carnival of Souls It has been recognized as an influential classic.


What is Carnival of Souls about?

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Carnival of Souls
Herts Lyon International

Carnival of Souls Some random people start drag racing, when a group of girls drowns off a bridge into a lake, where they are nowhere to be found. However, some time later, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligos) appears on the beach as a survivor with no memory of what happened. Mary was leaving Kansas for Utah to be a church organist at the time of the car accident, and continues her journey, but this time she is not alone.

Related: The Best American Horror Movies of 1960, Ranked

The demon-faced man (played by the director) keeps appearing in front of her, no matter where she is. His fat-stained face makes him look like the zombified George Romero, to effect Carnival of Souls I had to Night of the living dead becomes clear. Indeed, with the mystery man, Harvey created a new horror aesthetic, the modern zombie look. Not only zombies, but also the sense of documentary style and the ironic and tragic ending of the film. Although it’s a horror movie, it ends up being a documentary because of the patterns Harvey first used Carnival of Souls. David Lynch has also used “Mystery Man” in lost highway, Looks exactly like Harvey’s demonic appearance in Carnival of Soulsmaking Lynch one of the many directors who were influenced by this film.

Champion of the Feminist Spirit Carnival

Carnival of Souls star Candace Hilligos
Herts Lyon International

Carnival of Souls Inspired in part by Roman Polanski repulsion So, too, which is also about a mentally unbalanced woman who is deeply disturbed by a man’s affection and who may hallucinate violent men. Candice Hilligos gives a stunning performance as Mary, an independent, strong-willed woman with mood swings who needs someone else in her lonely life. It is possible that she has borderline or bipolar personality disorder, and is very antisocial and disinterested in others.

In addition, although she is a professional church organist, she is not religious at all. For her, playing the organ only allowed her to pay the bills. Otherwise, they stay away from churches. She also stays away from men who beat or criticize her for not having religious beliefs, or who try to tell her what to do. In many ways, despite her bitterness, Mary is a feminist hero unlike most other female characters in films of the time and before.

DIY horror and guerrilla filmmaking

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Carnival of Souls star Candace Hilligos
Herts Lyon International

There are many ways that Carnival of Souls It teaches you how to make your own great movie with virtually no money. His didactic films taught him how to shoot realistic-looking scenes, but for minimal money, and the director cut down any opportunity he could. The most important part of Carnival of Souls Production was the guerrilla filmmaking side of it, where laws were ignored, permits weren’t asked, permission wasn’t asked. Wherever possible locals and friends of the director were used, the filmmakers used a cheap camera called a battlefield camera which was traditionally used to capture news footage, so anything shot through one of them appeared as if it were part of a documentary, very realistic, And cheap too.

The most obvious use of such money-saving and guerrilla tactics was when people were photographed in a moving car. The traditional way to do this was the rear projection effect. What Harvey did was film his actors in a still stationary car and combine it with shots from a moving background. This technique is still used today and is just one of many examples of how this can be done Carnival of Souls It was a great, innovative movie for a low price.

In one critical scene, Mary goes to the fitting room to try on some clothes. Today, that would entail a deal with the mall and store, which would be executed by an entertainment attorney. The scenes will be shot at night, when the store is closed, and will be filled with paid extras to make the store look more authentic. Harvey chose a different direction. He showed up at the store with the cast and crew and offered the store clerk $25 for permission to film while the store was open. Shoppers were used as extras, and a huge amount of money was saved by ignoring all permits, lawyers, and paperwork.

Where, who, and how from the Herc Harvey movie

Zombie Soul Carnival
Herts Lyon International

As an experienced industrial filmmaker, Harvey also knew how to shoot on location, using locals and not actors, for minimal money. Harvey used several of his co-workers and studio resources to help him with the film, including commissioning a screenplay from a co-worker. In all, there was a crew of only five with a small cast of characters, and the film was shot in 21 consecutive days. Even when a scene called for something more elaborate, Harvey was smart and witty. When conceiving the film, he envisioned a zombie-style dance, and the result was a gathering of zombies dancing in a pavilion. For the dancers, he borrowed students from a local Mormon school of modern dance who were surprisingly happy to volunteer to try out.

Related: The Best 50’s Horror Movies From Around the World

In two scenes in the movie, everything goes silent. Mary cannot hear others who cannot hear or see her. Both scenes are scary, effective, and don’t require a lot of budget to scare the audience; All Harvey had to do was cut out the audio (which itself saved money). We watch Mary lose her mind and try to find a connection with humanity, after denying such connections throughout the movie.

The director used the cheaper industrial film techniques he was used to working with, and knew how to be suspenseful on a low budget, which influences films like an eraserAnd the Night of the living dead, and others. as a result of, Carnival of Souls It was a low-budget social psychological horror movie.

Carnival meaning of souls and their destiny

Carnival of Souls star Herk Harvey
Herts Lyon International

A few criticisms of the film are that its story seems derived from some short stories, and that it was plotted to turn something small into a movie. Carnival of Souls Runs as an extended version of a file Twilight Zone The episode, particularly the infamous one traveler’s hurdle, (based on a story originally written for the Orson Welles radio show), in which a mysterious motorist keeps seeing the same hitchhiker over and over again, no matter how fast she travels, until she finally realizes the shocking truth about her existential anxiety. Another influence is the story Incident at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, which was also made into an episode of Twilight Zone.

The remainder of this article contains spoilers for Carnival of Souls.However, Harvey took it Twilight Zone The aesthetic and plot shifted and turned into one of the most atmospheric horror films of all time. Yes, there are plot elements that appear in several items Twilight Zone episodes, etc., and have a similar meaning – Mary dies at the beginning of the movie in a water car accident, and Carnival of Souls It includes the last thoughts, fantasies and fears of a drowning woman. These here are dying dreams, and the entire movie can be described as Mary’s purgatory, as she hovers in the “twilight zone” between life and death, between reality and illusion.

However, the radical thing that Harvey did was use atmosphere, traffic, and DIY filmmaking to produce something inexplicable, strange, and impressive. It proves that you don’t need a budget (or even an original story) to use cinematic techniques in creative, terrifying, and unique ways. At the time, it was a failed experiment.

While Harvey has written and directed hundreds of industrial and educational films, he has only made this feature film. Due to unwanted studio cuts and false advertising, the movie did not do well, and Harvey stayed in the industrial blockbuster genre. He never directed a narrative feature again due to negative experiences.

But, Carnival of Souls It gained new life when a distributor sent copies to hundreds of television stations for midnight play. Turn this movie into a bona fide cult classic with ultimately legendary effect. Harvey’s very low-budget film is now widely considered an underground horror flick, and his influence can be seen in many of today’s low-budget films. Today, the movie is part of the Criterion Collection, so Harvey had the last laugh.

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