Monday, October 28, 2013

Film Review: The Ghost Breakers

"The Ghost Breakers"  *** (out of ****)

Over the years, for Halloween, I will sometimes take a break from the scary horror films and review a sub-genre of comedy, comedy/horror movies.

If you are not familiar with this sub-genre, you will find several of the great comics often made comedies which poked fun at the horror genre. The best known comedians to engage in this sub-genre would arguably have to be Abbott & Costello, who appeared in such titles as "Hold That Ghost" (1941, I have reviewed it) and "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948, I have reviewed it). Besides those two movies the comedy team "met" the Invisible Man, The Mummy, the Killer, Boris Karloff, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Others who have ventured into this genre are the comedy team Wheeler & Woolsey, who appeared in "Mummy's Boys" (1936), a comedy so bad, it's scary and the equally frightfully unfunny "The Ghost Catchers" (1944) starring the team Olsen & Johnson. And that leads us to "The Ghost Breakers" (1940) starring Bob Hope.

"The Ghost Breakers" was an attempt to cash in on a prior Bob Hope comedy, "The Cat and the Canary" (1939) released one year earlier, co-starring Paulette Goddard, who also co-stars in "The Ghost Breakers" as well.

Hope plays Larry Lawrence (his parents had no imagination he quips) a radio announcer known for his contacts with the underworld, where he reveals all the going ons of various criminals.

On his final broadcast, before taking a vacation, Lawrence may have taken things one step too far as now one of the gangsters Lawrence gossiped about wants to have a word with him. Through a misunderstanding, Lawrence thinks he accidentally kills a man when visiting the gangster at his hotel.

In order to hide from the police, Lawrence sneaks into the room of Mary Carter (Goddard) a woman about to inherit an old Cuban family castle. It is said the castle is haunted by ghost and zombies. But are these stories just an attempt to scare Mary away from the family's island and the castle? Or could the local legend be true? Parada (Paul Lukas, the famous Hungarian actor who won an Academy Award for his role in the movie "Watch on the Rhine" (1943) playing a Nazi) tries his hardest to convince Mary the stories are true and it would be in her best interest to sell the castle.

Hope gets mixed up in all of this by hiding in Mary's suitcase trunk and finds himself on his way to Cuba, fearful the man he thinks he killed may have been a gangster. Finding Mary quite attractive Lawrence and his valet, Alex (Willie Best) agree to help Mary discover if the ghost legend is true.

What makes "The Ghost Breakers" such an entertaining movie is the blend of comedy and horror. Much like "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" the movie is half horror half comedy. The horror part dealing with the haunted house could have worked on its own and been produced by Val Lewton. The movie lets the scary stuff with the ghost play out and then tells us a joke. The ghost are the set-up to Bob Hope's punchline, but Hope only delivers the punchline once the scary scene has been played out. In other words, the comedy doesn't interfere with the horror.

This gives the movie a lot of atmosphere and helps set a proper pace and tone. Nothing feels rushed. You don't feel the horror cheats us out of a good comedy or the comedy cheats us out of a good horror movie. It is extremely difficult to find the perfect blend for these two genres. Some more modern attempts like the "Scary Move" franchise never let up that it is all a joke. "The Ghost Breakers" is a nice contrast.

While the best thing about the movie may be Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard is equally watchable. I've always been a fan of hers. She has a lot of chemistry with Hope here, perhaps because of their work on "Canary" or maybe best she was such a natural talent. No one is going to find her funnier than Hope, but, she carries her own nicely and has a very good screen presence. Of course, being married to the greatest comedy filmmaker of all time, Charlie Chaplin, no doubt she learned a thing or two about comedy. By the time this movie was released she had already appeared in "Modern Times" (1936, I have reviewed it) with Chaplin.

At this point in his career Hope was just starting to break out. He had only done one "road" picture, "Road to Singapore" (1940) and had yet to appear in some of his best comedies (in my opinion) such as "Louisiana Purchase" (1941, I have reviewed it), "The Princess & the Pirate" (1944), "The Lemon Drop Kid" (1951), "Alias Jesse James" (1959) and my personal favorite, "Casanova's Big Night" (1954).

The movie was directed by George Marshall. Marshall has quite the versatile track record. Prior to working with Hope, he directed Laurel & Hardy in their feature film, "Pack Up Your Trouble" (1932) and some of their two-reelers; "Towed in a Hole" (1932) and "Their First Mistake" (1932). He also directed the W.C. Fields comedy, "You Can't Cheat An Honest Man" (1939). With Bob Hope he directed "Monsieur Beaucaire" (1946, I have reviewed it) another candidate for one of Hope's funniest pictures, as well as "Fancy Pants" (1950) with Lucille Ball and a remake of "The Ghost Breakers", the Dean Martin / Jerry Lewis comedy "Scared Stiff" (1953).

"The Ghost Breakers" probably won't scare today's modern audience but the movie is highly enjoyable and good fun. It is a wonderful blend of comedy and scares showing us there is nothing to be afraid of, even though sometimes we can't help ourselves.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Film Review: Dracula 3D

"Dracula 3D"  *** (out of ****)

One of the more memorable cinematic experiences I had at the 49th annual Chicago International Film Festival was a midnight showing I attended of Dario Argento's "Dracula 3D" (2013).

When we think of the countless film adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel, the most famous might be the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi. Of modern times the best known film version may be Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula" (1992) starring Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman, which is often cited as a more faithful adaption of Stoker's novel. Dario Argento's "Dracula" is somewhere in the middle. It borrows from the Lugosi version with certain famous lines but also has elements which remind the viewer of Coppola's film. And, to make the film Argento's own, his main contribution is the 3D gimmick, with, you guessed it, squirts of blood flying at the audience.

Hearing a title like "Dracula 3D" an audience is going to review the movie based on the title alone. This is similar to what happened with another movie with a goofy title, "Cowboys vs Aliens". The title alone will intrigue some audience members and turn off others. How good could a movie called "Dracula 3D" be? What type of cheap, campy tricks is Argento going to throw at the audience? Yet others will say, that sounds pretty goofy. One of those, "it's so bad, it's good" type of movies. A true blue camp fest.

Dario Argento was at one time seen as one of the great Italian horror film makers. His speciality was a sub-genre of horror films called giallo (pronounced yellow) which is the Italian word for yellow. This was the color of the covers of supernatural/murder/mystery stories. The books were cheap (in price not quality) and therefore easily accessible to mainstream audiences. In the early 1970s, when Argento's films were finding distribution in America, titles such as "The Cat O' Nine Tails" (1971) and "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" (1971) were being championed by audiences and critics who herald Argento as a new emerging talent. Someone who understood the fundamentals of the horror genre. He was even compared to Hitchcock.

These early films had minimal screen violence, which the critics liked. Argento, they said, left the viewer to imagine the horror, which was far more scarier. But then Argento's films started to switch. He soon became known for lavish death scenes, usually of pretty young girls. He had an almost fetish for blood. The camera would linger on the sight of blood like an animal going after its prey. Argento had now gained a reputation as an ultra-gory filmmaker. His best known films are "Suspiria" (1977, which I have reviewed) and "Deep Red" (1975).

But then something happened to Argento. His work became quite campy. While he has gained a cult status and will forever be associated with  "Suspiria", the quality of his work started to decline. His work no longer served the chills his earlier efforts did. The low point of his career was his adaptation of Gaston Leroux's "The Phantom of the Opera" made in 1998. Even Argento fans look upon that as a disappointment and an embarrassment. He rebounded rather nicely with "Sleepless" (2001), the last truly effective movie he has made and now gives us "Dracula 3D".

My expectations for the movie were not very high. Memories of his "Phantom of the Opera" still linger in my mind. Would this be a duplicate? His "Giallo" (2009, which I have reviewed) was a decent attempt to go back to a genre he knows well, but, we are talking about a vampire movie in 3D!

To my surprise the story is told rather straight forward and the camp was kept at "acceptable" levels, based on my own radar. The movie has a nice look to it, the cinematography was done by Luciano Tovoli, who shot "Suspiria" and "Tenebre" (1982, which I have reviewed) another Argento film. He also worked with the great Antonioni on "The Passenger" (1975) and with Maurice Pialat, on what I feel is his finest film, "Police" (1986).

Tovoli gives the movie a classical horror look, at times, like when the blood isn't squirting at us and insects are not crawling toward us. In fact, there is no reason whatsoever that this movie needed to be told in 3D. In my opinion, there is no need for any movie to be released in 3D, other than to jack up ticket prices (but that's another story)!

I could see how Argento could have made a better vampire film, say about 25 years ago. Think of the Hammer horror films. Argento could have filmed some truly ghastly death sequences and startling images of stakes be driven into the heart of the vampires. He and Tovoli could have probably given the film a nice Gothic look and just imagine the musical score the Goblins (a band Argento discovered) would have created. Yes, I can see why Argento would have been interested in a vampire story. But, that was the Argento of yesterday. The Argento of today has moved in a different direction.

This time around Dracula is played by Thomas Kretschmann, who in a strange twist of fate will be in the new NBC television show "Dracula" playing Van Helsing. He might be known to some audiences for his work in Roman Polanski's brilliant "The Pianist" (2002) and Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong" (2005). Kretschmann has gotten some truly awful reviews from the sheep, er, I mean critics. The New York Times wrote Kretschmann is the "least scary, least sexy Dracula ever". I guess the sheep, er critic, found Leslie Nielsen (who played the part in the Mel Brooks comedy "Dracula: Dead & Loving It" (1995) sexier. Wow!

Dracula has called for the services of Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) to work in his library, at the suggestion of Lucy Kisslinger (Asia Argento, Dario's daughter, who has appeared in a few of his films). Lucy is best friends with Jonathan's wife, Mina (Marta Gastini) who will be joining Jonathan.

Soon several townspeople have been found dead with bite marks on their necks. Jonathan has been hallucinating about wolves and insects, while Lucy has also been having terrible dreams about having her blood sucked. What could be the cause of all this? Could it be the giant prying mantis (you read that right) we see at one point in the movie kill a man(!)?

A famous doctor is called to investigate, a Dr. Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer, who fought another evil spirit in "The Rite" (2011) and was in "Blade Runner" (1982) the sci-fi classic). He knows who Dracula really is. The undead. And, he knows why his sinister plan involved Lucy and Mina. But, can he stop Dracula?

As I stated before, Argento doesn't change the familiar storyline all that much. Walking into the movie audiences should know what to expect, who these characters are and their fates. The surprise or the entertainment value, lies in what will Argento bring. Namely, will there be gory death scenes with lots of blood? And, will this be a campy "B" movie, unintentional laugh fest, worthy of a midnight showing?

The movie is more serious than I thought it would be in presenting this material. Rutger Hauer isn't as over the top as I heard the performance was going to be. Kretschmann is not the most effective Dracula I have seen, but, oddly enough, that's because he isn't given much to work with, which is surprising that Dracula isn't given much to work with in a movie called "Dracula", but, why quibble?

No one is going to find the movie scary. Although it does have a nice opening scene with a pretty young girl all alone in the woods. And, there is one grusome death scene fairly earlier in the film with a character who gets his head split open, which should please Argento fans (what an odd statement that is). But ultimately, I have to wonder, what did Argento want to accomplish here? Did he truly intend to make a serious horror film and scare the living daylights out of us? Or did he want to make a campy, semi-comedy/horror film in 3D?

I think we are in a grey, middle area here. Still, I find myself recommending the movie. Why? As a cinematic experience it was quite unique. The screening was sold out. The energy in the room was high. The great filmmaker attended the screening for a brief Q&A, which he called short so he could sign autographs and take pictures with the audience! I will not forget the absolute delight which filled the room when we all saw Dario Argento walk into the room. Even I had a childish grin on my face being so close to the director.

But these memories and moments have nothing to do with the picture itself. "Dracula 3D" is watchable. In its own way it is fun. Going with a group of friends, who don't take themselves too serious, could prove to be a fun midnight showing, where you will all laugh afterwards when discussing the movie. What "Dracula 3D" isn't however, is a truly effective horror movie. It is not up to the standards Argento originally set for himself back when he was compared to Hitchcock.

Then again, how many times do we watch a movie and have blood squirt at us?

Film Review: The Notebook (A Nagy Fuzet)

"The Notebook" 
*** 1\2 (out of ****)

As the 49th annual Chicago International Film Festival enters its second week, coming to an end. I have managed to attend some more screenings.

One of the more powerful films I have seen at this year's festival is the Hungarian film "The Notebook (A Nagy Fuzet, 2013)". It was the only Hungarian film playing at this year's festival, so I made sure I attended.

"The Notebook" brings up the discussion, what makes a person violent? Some may say an individual is born that way. It is part of their genes. They were born with a disturbed mind. But "The Notebook" argues a violent upbringing will produce a violent person. We are all a product of our environment and must adapt in order to survive.

Young twin boys (played by Andras and Laszlo Gyemant) are children at the beginning of World War Two. Their father (Ulrich Matthes) has joined the army and must leave the family behind. The boys are separated from their mother (Gyongyver Bognar) as she has decided it is best if they live with their estranged grandmother (Piroska Molnar), who lives in the country.

The grandmother and daughter do not get along ever since the daughter's father died, some say the grandmother killed him. It has been years since they have seen each other. And when the twin boys show up at her house, it is the first time she has seen them. Initially she wants nothing to do with the boys or her daughter.

The grandmother is isolated from the world. No one visits her. There is no other mention of living family members, no friends or neighbors. There is an emptiness, a bleakness to her existence. The village is not unlike one you would find in a Bela Tarr film, much like the one presented in his final film, "The Turin Horse" (2012). The viewer can almost smell death around these characters.

The boys are terribly mistreated both verbally and physically by the grandmother. She never calls them by their names. She refers to them as "bastards", since she is of the opinion the boys really don't have a father and their mother is a whore. She beats the boys every morning in order to make sure they do their chores or else they do not get to eat. If they do not behave she will also lock them out of the house and they will have to sleep outside.

They never hear from the mother and keep a diary, a notebook, which their father gave them before leaving. He told them to write down everything they do and see. Their writings serve as the film's narration. We learn the boys have devised a plan of survival. The only way they will get through this ordeal with the grandmother and their new environment is by learning to accept pain. To be able to endure the hardships life throws at them and to learn to accept death and not be afraid of it.

At first the boys beat each other up, to the point they become bloody, next they kill animals and insects, they try to learn to do without food and to endure cold winters. But it is not only the winters which are cold. Soon the boys' hearts become cold. They have isolated themselves from their own emotions. This manages to impress a German solider (Ulrich Thomsen) who has taken over some of the grandmother's land. He feels the boys display a great discipline and strength.

The film, directed by Janos Szasz, is at times difficult to watch. It is amazing to see this transformation within these children. Life has dealt them a fatal blow and has turned them into monsters. Seeing nothing but cruelty and death around them their innocent childhood has been taken away from them. And there were probably many, many stories like this involving children during the war. Children separated from their families, learning to try to cope on their own.

Szasz and his cinematography, Christian Berger, who shot the Oscar winner, "The White Ribbon" (2009) and "Cache" (2005) have quite a good eye. The film is shot in black and white which adds a certain starkness to the film. Many shots of the empty landscape reflect the emptiness of these character's lives. But even in this small village the destruction of war will find them. You cannot escape death.

I have seen some very good Hungarian movies over the years at the Chicago International Film Festival. Not one of them was ever picked up for distribution in America. Not one! With those kind of odds, this film will probably not be released in America either. A shame. This is a very powerful film. A film which offers a very bleak hopeless message. We live in a world which produces violence and multiples it and soon we become so jaded by it, violence no longer shocks us, but, we embrace it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Film Review: Walesa : Man of Hope

"Walesa: Man of Hope"  **** (out of ****)

This weekend the 49th annual Chicago International Film Festival has begun. For my first day attending the festival I saw the latest film from the legendary Polish filmmaker Andrezj Wajda, "Walesa: Man of Hope" (2013).

Who else but Wajda, the greatest Polish filmmaker, could have given us a movie such as this? What other Polish director has, as often as Wajda, put Poland's history on screen? For those of us who admire this great man's work, "Walesa" is a film made in the finest tradition of Wajda's best films. It is the kind of movie, if made in America, would be a sure Oscar contender. The story of a working man who achieved great things out of love for his country and a cause he believed in. An amazing true story.

Like so many of Wajda's films, "Walesa" is a story about the workers. Their daily struggle to be able to make a living and the hardship of living under Communist rule. Lech Walesa (Robert Wieckiewicz) worked at a shipyard and one day became the face and the voice of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Eventually he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize and would live to see the end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe.

"Walesa" is a film which belongs side by side with "Man of Marble" (1977) and its sequel "Man of Iron" (1981) two films about a man, also a worker, who came to represent the spirit of average workers during the 1950s. Those movies are among Wajda's greatest achievements and "Walesa" should one day be considered a classic.

Personally I didn't know much about Walesa's life. And since this is a motion picture I am sure much of this man's life was left out. Both the good and the bad, but especially the bad. I'm sure the movie played fast and loose with the facts. Remember the old line of the movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. But what "Walesa" does is show us why this man is important. Why a movie about him needed to be made and why he is an important part of Poland's history. Even if we know things are left out, it doesn't matter. The audience can still tell this is a story which carries importance. This man accomplished something.

One of the interesting aspects of the film, in order to help the viewer understand the historic importance of what we are seeing, Wajda uses the old "Zelig" (1983) and "Forrest Gump" (1994) gimmick of using real archive footage and inserting the actors in them. Though at the end of the film we do see the real Lech Walesa, in one of the movie's more sentimental moments.

It is very difficult to say if this movie will find distribution in America. The last film I saw by Wajda at the film festival was "Sweet Rush (Tatarak, 2009)". It was never released in America though his movie "Katyn" (2009) was. My gut tells me a film such as this will not be distributed. Regardless, this is a masterpiece. One of the finest films Andrzej Wajda has directed.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Film Review: The Phantom of the Paradise

"The Phantom of the Paradise"  *** (out of ****)

Boy was I duped! Walking into Brian De Palma's "The Phantom of the Paradise" (1974) I wasn't really quite sure what to expect. Naturally, given the title of the film, I figured we were getting a modern twist on the Gaston Leroux novel, "The Phantom of the Opera". And, since De Palma is known for cinematic homages (Hitchcock anyone?) I also assumed perhaps the movie would tip its hat to the best known screen adaptation of the novel, the classic 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney. Nope! I was wrong.

"The Phantom of the Paradise" is only partially something near to that. It is a campy, rock n' roll, satircal look at the music industry and a phantom of the opera update mixed in with the legend of Faust and hints of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

Yet, for some reason, it works. I was expecting something slightly campy, I find elements of camp in all of De Palma's films, but I thought it would have some suspenseful moments and play up the horror angle a bit more. It doesn't, going more for musical camp, think "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained. This is a silly movie but harmless. Not terrible. Well made. De Palma shoots the movie straight, just as he would any other movie. The acting is a bit on the ham side, especially the lead, William Finley as a struggling composer who enters the world of a great music producer, Swan (Paul Williams), who promises to produce his musical adaptation of Faust.

One day Swan hears Winslow (Finley) play one of his original songs. Swan is impressed. The music may be just what Swan has been looking for. A new sound to open is upcoming club, The Paradise. Swan is not really interested in Winslow, just his music, and wants a rock band to sing it. Winslow will not hear of this. No one will ruin his music. It is his labor of love. Only he can do justice to it. So on and so forth. You've heard this stuff before.

A double-cross happens and now Winslow finds himself disformed and without a voice. He hears an attractive woman audition for Swan, Phoenix (Jessica Harper, making his debut. She was in the horror masterpiece "Suspiria" (1977) directed by Dario Argento) and falls in love with her. Both with her and her voice. Now only she can sing his music. And he will kill, if he has to, to make it happen.

I won't go into much more of the plot details. For one thing, there really isn't any point and for another I wouldn't want to spoil anything. Although if you are familiar with the phantom of the opera, there aren't any major surprises here.

This isn't one of De Palma's best films. For that I would suggest "Sisters" (1973), "Obsession" (1976), "Dressed to Kill" (1980) or "Body Double" (1984). But "The Phantom of the Paradise" is not without its own charm. The satire works, the songs are pleasant to listen to (Paul Williams wrote the score and received an Oscar nomination for it) and the movie is only 90 minutes. So, you never really get bored watching it.

Not a great choice if you are looking for something scary to watch this Halloween but a good choice if you are looking for something campy to watch with some friends.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Film Review: The Bling Ring

"The Bling Ring" **** (out of ****)

I often feel we live in a world where too many people care about the pointless, mindless, small stuff. Hollywood gossip or "entertainment" gossip, is big business. Countless, mindless TV shows tracking down so-called "celebrities", telling us where they go to party, what designers they like and of course, most importantly, who is sleeping with who.

You know the names of these programs and you know who the so-called "celebrities" are. People who are famous for no reason at all, other then being a) pretty b) socialites and c) getting into trouble and/or making sex tapes. They are shallow, empty people with nothing to contribute to society. And I don't think too highly of the people who swallow this garbage on a daily basis either, whether by profession or for leisure.

"The Bling Ring" is a dynamite expose on our culture and the desire to want to be famous, wear nice clothes and meet these "celebrities" and the lengths people will go to in order to achieve these things.

Unfortunately "The Bling Ring" hasn't been met with the greatest critical praise. The sheep, er I mean critics, pretty much all said the same thing (they usually do) and tried to perpetuate the idea into our head that the movie isn't very good. Nothing happens. Director Sofia Coppola doesn't tell us anything new or interesting about these people. She doesn't judge them.

Hogwash I say. Coppola doesn't need to make any statement. The movie doesn't require a "message scene", where someone tells the characters and by extension the audience, these people are shallow. Our society is shallow. The "celebrities" are shallow. All one has to do is watch the movie. Who would defend their actions? Who would defend these people? Who would not criticize this culture of "celebrity"? Only people currently making money from it. No one other person needs a lecture. By simply telling us this true story Coppola doesn't need to cast judgement on these characters. She merely needs to tell their story. We, the audience, can do the rest.

"The Bling Ring" is based on a true story, based on a Vanity Fair article written by Nancy Jo Sales and adapted by Coppola herself into a screenplay. The film follows a group of young, wealthy people, mostly girls (Katie Chang, Emma Watson and Claire Julien) and a guy (Israel Broussard) who find out the address of people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jude Law and others, and go to their homes to steal. Why? Mostly for the heck of it but also because it is the closest they will get to be part of that lifestyle, which they yearn so desperately for. To be famous for nothing. To party and do drugs, drive nice cars, wear nice clothes, meet attractive people and have endless amounts of money without doing any actual work. I guess, who wouldn't want that?

Sofia Coppola is a filmmaker I've thought highly of but was never overwhelmed by her work. So far she has directed six feature films. Each have their share of defenders. Her two biggest critical darlings may have been her debut film "The Virgin Suicides" (1999) with Kirsten Dunst (who makes a cameo appearance) and "Lost in Translation" (2003) with Scarlett Johanson and Bill Murray. She also directed "Marie Antoinette" (2006, which I have reviewed) and "Somewhere" (2010). But I think "The Bling Ring" may be her best film. I had the most enjoyable time watching it and despite what others have said, I thought the movie had something to say and showed us our celebrity culture at its worst.

The movie is almost broad enough to play as satire, simply because it is far too difficult to accept these characters are people. They don't function in a society which I can relate to. Yet, to my horror, I can imagine there are people in the world like these characters. I think Coppola finds the right tone for the material. Her style is well suited to this story.

For me, it is one of the year's best films. A real accomplishment for Sofia Coppola.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Film Review: Carnival of Souls

" Carnival of Souls"  **** (out of ****)

Since it is the month of October, as has been tradition, I review horror films in honor of the month as we countdown to Halloween. Today I will discuss a cult classic psychological horror film.

"Carnival of Souls" (1962) is somewhat of a forgotten film with a devoted small following. It is far from a great film. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people quickly dismiss it as a poorly executed film. I can't deny the film has moments of poorly written dialogue, rough around the edges acting, an at times annoying musical score and extremely cheap production design, not to mention the beginning of the movie is completely out of sync.

But, once we put all these faults aside, what we have here is an interesting psychological story of a traumatized mind. An individual trying to connect to a world in which she feels isolated from. In many ways it is a rather bold piece of American independent filmmaking.

Watching "Carnival of Souls" I was reminded of the French horror classic, "Eyes Without A Face" (1960) directed by Georges Franju. Both movies existed within their own world. What I admire so much about them is they create their own rules and follow their own logic. Within this world created in "Carnival of Souls" everything makes perfect sense and the situation our lead character, Mary Henry (Candance Hilligoss, making her film debut) finds herself in is deeply disturbing and becomes plausible in this world.

Mary was the only survivor of a deadly car accident. She and some friends decided to race another car. The car Mary is in spins out of control and off a bridge. Initially police cannot find the bodies or the car. Then, out of the blue, Mary appears.

Clearly shaken by this incident, Mary leaves the small town she is from to work as a church organist in another small town. Mary believes a change of scenery will do her good. But, as most people can tell you, you can never run away from your problems. And Mary has plenty of problems.

In this new town Mary feels isolated. She is disturbed by visions of zombies coming after her. She frequently falls into spells, where she is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. When victim to these spells, Mary is invisible to the world. No one can see or hear her and Mary cannot hear the world around her. She is shut off from society. But even when not suffering from these spells, Mary has an anti-social personality.

I can see how a movie such as this may have, in some small way, influenced the Robert Wise psychological horror film, "The Haunting" (1963). If you have seen that movie, it should give you some idea what to expect here.

Today's audience will not be scared watching "Carnival of Souls". We have become too  jaded. Horror films are filled with blood and guts. The violence goes to extreme levels. "Carnival of Souls" is almost too innocent. You have to be in the great mind set to watch this movie and allow it to win you over. The best advice I can give you is to simply follow the movie without resistance. Trust it. Allow yourself to follow the movie's logic. Don't question it. Try not to be turned off by the movie's faults (poor dialogue, cheap production design..ect) and find a way to embrace them. Only then will the movie be able to have an effect on you.