Tag Archives: Movie Review

Carnival of Souls (1962)

DIRECTOR Herk Harvey
STARRING Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger & Art Ellison
RELEASE DATE September 26, 1962
RUNTIME 80 Minutes
COUNTRY United States

Mary Henry ends up the sole survivor of a fatal car accident through mysterious circumstances. Trying to put the incident behind her, she moves to Utah and takes a job as a church organist. But her fresh start is interrupted by visions of a fiendish man. As the visions begin to occur more frequently, Mary finds herself drawn to the deserted carnival on the outskirts of town. The strangely alluring carnival may hold the secret to her tragic past.

By now it should be safe to assume this film is a staple of the horror genre. Rather than simply review Carnival Of Souls, because that would be redundant at this time, it would be interesting to explore a subjective pseudo-interpretation of this slept-on masterpiece. Be warned, this is a matter of opinion so feel free to call this quackery or justified at your own free will…

On the off chance some horror fans have not watched this film, here is a brief introduction.The film opens with our main character, Mary, riding shotgun with two other women in a car stopped at a red light. Suddenly another car pulls up beside them full of hip-looking men that challenge them to a drag race. The driver of Mary’s entourage agrees with her dutiful feminine smile and the vehicles speed off down the strip. As they continue the fierce, albeit, unnecessary race across a narrow bridge, Mary’s death-bound chariot loses control and is sent flying off the bridge only to be submerged in an alleged watery grave at the bottom of a murky river. Authorities search the waters for hours without success until Mary mysteriously emerges from the water without recollection of how she made it out alive. This dance with death must have been traumatic because Mary packs up and moves to Utah, and this is when the strange and unusual happenings begin to occur in her surreal journey.

This opening scene can be interpreted as the gender roles of men and women at the edge of a sexual revolution coming in the following years of the decade. A race between genders, with the men as an opposing force to women’s liberation. The men are the indirect/direct cause of a woman’s philosophical death, but….Mary is reborn as she emerges from death, renewed and now liberated to be in control of her own life, or will she succumb to the female role of the traditional nuclear family.

The film has many recurring motifs one being an eerie organ melody that not only serves as the score but as an entity in itself. Mary is, in fact, an organ player that has been hired by a church in her new town. This melody is the musical antithesis of this church. When Mary first practices her skills she becomes possessed by visions of the ghastly man dancing with other ghouls at the strange pavilion she is drawn to and plays the eerie melody herself. The minister hears her playing this terrible tune and deems it as blasphemy. This explains the thoughts of the church, or any institution, accepting independence within the female gender.

From the beginning of her journey, Mary is haunted by a mysterious ghastly man that seems to follow everywhere. He is seen in reflections, walking among the living, and even haunting her thoughts. The ghastly man becomes so frightening she fears to be alone, to the point of her complying with John’s attempts to get her to go out with him. After a failed “date” at a local bar, a drunken John tries to convince her to invite him into her room. The scene is almost insinuating he would probably rape her but has a mental breakdown when she sees the reflection of John as the ghastly man coming for her. This scares John away as she might be insane. Or is it because she is not a submissive like how he expects a female should typically be?

Leading to the next point, hysteria was originally a psychological diagnosis only attributed to women.  As Mary questions her sanity she confides in a doctor that dismisses the happening as hysterical hallucinations. During the film, Mary becomes invisible to others around her as if she is not there, just as she is invisible to the world, her problems are invisible as well. She is only recognized when her role is somewhat conforming with how women should be in that era such as attending church or being submissive to men.

Eventually, we are left to decide on what has happened to Mary from our own perspective as we are never given answers to the many questions left behind. Does this film explore the struggle of being a liberated female adapting to a patriarchal society? Or vice versa? Who knows? But this is an interesting concept to discuss and an excellent film.

Please do not take this as some scholarly social critique, only an entertaining interpretation. This film is a classic and should be revered regardless of the true motivation for its creation. This one withstands the test of time and is very influential to the genre, gradually carrying the horror to a new aesthetic. If you haven’t yet, put Carnival of Soul next on the watch list…

Editor’s Note: Carnival of Souls is one of the best movies besides the original Night of the Living Dead that’s in the public domain. This means you can watch it free AND legally online. Now you have no excuse to not watch it if you haven’t seen it yet.

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

DIRECTOR Adam Robitel
STARRING Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard
RELEASE DATE January 5, 2018
RUNTIME 103 Minutes
COUNTRY United States

Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address — 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, N.M. — the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear — the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.

The latest chapter of the Insidious series hits theaters today and you’re probably wondering, “Should I go?”

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that this latest film is not only the best film since the first, it may be every bit as good as the first film.

So here is quick synopsis: our intrepid psychic Elise Rainer is tasked with returning to the place she once lived to finally confront and deal with the festering evil she left there as a teenager.

That’s it in a nutshell. Along the way, Leigh Whannell (this time only acting, writing and producing) manages to write a film that bookends the series perfectly, serves as a prequel to the series and can function as an independent and stand-alone horror film. It’s remarkable.

Also remarkable is the world building on display in this series. The Further, where all the ghosts and demons and such spend their time when they aren’t torturing us, is—no play on words here—further developed. It is a place unhinged and terrifying, and the creatures populating it are horrifying and fascinating. It’s the greatest haunted house ever. The creature in this film, credited as Keyface, is a spectacle to behold and is brought to horrifying life by Javier Botet (who’s work in Mama, The Strain and most recently It is quickly raising his star to the heights that Andy Serkis and Doug Jones both occupy). Couple this upped creep factor with the solid script and plotting by Whannel and you have a great film. But what about the directing you ask? Who is directing this film if Whannell and James Wan aren’t? How could this be good if it isn’t in their hands?

Relax. Adam Robitel is here to assure us that his work on the criminally underrated Taking of Deborah Logan (which he also wrote) was no fluke. That film was an assured piece of horror filmmaking and his decidedly non-found footage direction here in The Last Key show that we have a potential new master of horror on our hands here. He, Mike Flanagan, Corin Hardy, Andy Muschietti and James Wan should all be looked upon as the next up and coming group of genre superstars and we are fortunate to have them especially as horror takes center stage again at the box office.

So there you have it, Insidious: The Last Key is a film most definitely worthy of your time this weekend. It’s a well-acted, well-written and well-directed piece of genre fare and it deserves your attention. It further builds on the already excellent mythology of the Insidious series and it is a truly creeptastic experience on top of all else. If you’re avoiding the cold today or this weekend, throw on the whole series and marathon it. Then go to theaters and experience this newest, fear-filled chapter.

The New York Ripper (1982)

DIRECTOR Lucio Fulci
STARRING Jack Hedley, Paolo Malco, Almanta Suska, Alexandra Delli Colli
RELEASE DATE March 4th, 1982
RUNTIME 85 Minutes

A homicidal madman’s vendetta against promiscuous women is taken to grisly extremes on the streets of Manhattan.

Upon viewing this gem only one word comes to mind…sleazy. The master of the craft, Lucio Fulci, transitions your perspective on the Giallo film entirely from influential to a perverse and filthy horror subgenre. At the time of the original release critics might have signified this the end of the sleek slashers Italian masterminds were pumping out, but try to have a more contemporary perspective on what makes this film, not monumental, but the necessary commentary on the genre and western culture. WARNING! If you watch this on the first date let’s hope he/she can appreciate a real “classy” film…

The film opens up like any other police procedural: a man and his dog in NYC stumble upon a body…well a piece of a body…A hand! (DUN! DUN! *Law and Order theme plays*) Police put the dismembered hand to a local prostitute, then after meeting cynical washed-up detective Lt. Williams we learn from the landlord that the prostitute was meeting a man she overheard on the phone that sounded like a duck… Now before we go into any further detail about this film, this duck-like voice is very reminiscent of a particular cartoon duck. Hint: Not Daffy. The rest of the film focuses on the investigation of Lt. Williams, along with the help of psychotherapist Dr. Paul Davis, following the trail and taunts of the killer. Combined with some voyeuristic gaze, we also get some “original” sleazy scenes of debauchery, that I will refrain from describing so you be as just as appalled.

The film continues and portrays an early 80’s New York City that appears to be like a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. X-rated theaters, creepy perverts, and sex-fiends adorn every corner; as well as a violent quacking psychopath slicing up the promiscuous inhabitants of the dark trenches of the big apple. This must be Fulci’s way of presenting evidence in which the genre cannot go any further…Or can it? The scenes of this film are just downright dirty. Full of sadism and savagery that shows what freedom Fulci can take advantage of, even if it is not motivated by some artsy disposition.

The characters in this film are what everyday people are afraid to admit that lives beneath the surface of social normality.This film rightfully exposes the unspoken sexual freedom in western culture as well as the drive to cynicism and bitterness by those who are unable to understand why such perversion and violence are so willfully indulged. And who other to make an example of those with a lack of appreciation of such freedom? A murderer that seems as if he is subtly assuming the identity of every family’s favorite Disney duck.

Trust that this opinion is not a celebration of perfect filmmaking by any means, but a recommendation. This is a definite must-see from an objective viewpoint for anybody that wants to add another flick to their repulsive repertoire. In the vein of Hitchcock, Fulci resurrects his spirit and shove him off the edge into an age of hyper-sexual ultra-violence that infests the gluttonous gallows of America’s most well-known cities. If you want a movie that makes you ponder getting tested and check out The New York Ripper!