It’s time to look at an old film that wasn’t very good. If you’re not surprised…then that’s fine. While the film tries to be incredibly deep with all of its odd visuals and strangeness lurking about, it ultimately loses its sense of direction. The ending is terrible and you are left wondering how you could have guessed the final twist within the first 10 minutes. Why….whyyyyyyyy!
It was an ordinary day in town at first. Mary and her friends were driving along when they got challenged to a race. They accepted, but it turns out to be their final mistake as the group plunged into the ocean and everyone died. The police eventually got to the scene of the crime, but it was all lost to the waters. Everything was lost…except for Mary. She shows up out of nowhere, but doesn’t have much of a recollection on what has transpired. Thinking that she is in shock, everyone gives her some space. She moves away to a distant town to become the organ player for a Church. She openly admits to anyone who will listen that she doesn’t actually believe in God though. She rents a room at a quiet little motel. That’s when things start to get crazy.
Mary begins to see a strange man following her. Just like a ghost, he’ll vanish and reappear at will. Mary is also beginning to lose her connection with the real world as she’ll be stuck in a dead zone. When she is in the dead zone, nobody can hear or see her. She is able to move around regardless and when the time is up, she’ll have essentially teleported as far as the civilians are concerned. The problem is that the dead zones grow longer and longer. Eventually, she may not have a way back. Finally, the only other person at her motel seems to be a very shady individual and someone that she can’t trust. Will Mary be all right?
This film has a lot of problems. One of them is certainly the fact that the main character is not likable in the slightest. She has gone through a tough time so it makes sense that she is rather off, but I simply didn’t care for how she handled the situation at all. She was rather rude to everyone and would act tough only to break down time and time again. Mary could not make up her mind at all and had so many sudden panic attacks that they got old really fast. A better lead could have gone a long way.
Another thing that held it all back was the motel roommate. He had no purpose in the film other then to cause a lot of tension. He constantly tries to get in Mary’s room and flirts with her to no end until she finally relents. The film portrays him as a bad guy the whole time and while nothing really comes of it thanks to her supernatural panics, it’s just pretty wince worthy the whole time. Cutting him out of the film would have certainly been great since he did nothing but bog it all down.
The ending is also another sour spot. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. Have you left yet? All right, here we go! Mary was dead all along. Yeah, the film wasn’t very subtle about this so you could tell right from the get go. I was just hoping that the film wouldn’t go that route. It does me one better though as we find out that Mary simply needs to accept her death and lose the will to live. She tries to defy this fate by clinging to her life and disrupting the natural balance of things, but ultimately she is forced to choose death. She is attacked by a gang of ghosts and is completely defeated. It’s such a truly terrible ending that you’ll be left in mild shock. The whole journey was all for naught. Mary never had a chance and the moral of the story is actually that she needs to accept her death? That’s just horrible.
Ugh, what positives are there? Well, I liked the psychiatrist. He did a good job of helping Mary remember that this is all happening in her head. She has to defy the visions and stay strong. It’s easy to say, but hard to do and Mary never had the strongest resolve in the first place. When you also consider the fact that her life is in constant danger, the only possible conclusion is that she needs to watch her back. If she had one other person who could see these apparitions, that would have certainly helped. I liked the old lady who owned the motel as well. She was pretty reasonable and did her best to make the stay comfortable for Mary. My only gripe is that she had no idea that she rented the other room to a rather suspect fellow. Mary should have let her know from the start that this had happened. Man, that roommate really hurt the film. Every time I remember him, it just gets worse and worse.
The Church goers were all right. I think the Pastor overreacted by yelling at Mary so much for playing a tune when Church was over. Apparently it was sacrilege or something so he kicked her out. He tried to sound a little regretful afterwards, but it wasn’t very helpful by that point. Mary didn’t really do much to defend herself as she was a pretty bad character as well, but I do think that the pastor could have done a much better job on his own.
The film did do a decent job of getting the Twilight Zone vibe in though. With the zombies randomly showing up everywhere and the deserted fun house nearby, it was a perfect setup for these spooky situations. I think the film could have had a lot of potential had it just stuck to this and not wasted time in adding the motel roommate. I’m probably starting to repeat myself on that, but it’s just so crucial. This film probably still would not have been good anyway as I still think that the ending was terrible and Mary is unlikable, but it would have still helped quite a bit.
Overall, I definitely do not recommend the Carnival of Souls. While the eerie tone does work pretty well, the rest of the film simply isn’t able to stand up to it. Mary may have been disrupting reality itself, but she should have just taken that in stride and ignored the spirits running around. The dead should just worry about themselves. It would have been cool if Mary could fight and had tried to attack the wraiths. Ah well, that’s something that usually doesn’t happen in these kinds of films so I’d need to wait for a parody of sorts. If you want a spooky film that keeps it real, check out a classic Abbott and Costello film.