Imagine a film where the only time we witness a woman alive is in the first few moments when, following a drag race, the car she is in careens off a bridge and into a river. Following, all are dead, save what appears to be her, who pulls herself out from muck and swamp like a zombie, walking slowly and claiming to not remember anything. Then flashes the title and the eerie, ambient organ music that accompanies. It’s not that the scene is scary insomuch as otherworldly. So who is she exactly?
Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls stars Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) as an attractive young woman who seems to move about in a dream, where she remains detached, and reviles human contact. After the accident, she informs her employers about her new job as a church organist in Utah (she studied organ in college). Astute and cerebral, Mary appears as though something else is continually on her mind. When she’s pleasantly asked to ‘come back and visit,’ she replies coldly, ‘thank you, but I am never coming back.’ Throughout, this emotional detachment is paramount to assessing Mary’s character. ‘I have no use for the company of others,’ she says. At one moment, she seems head strong and alien, as though she does not belong with the human race, but then, when inundated with fear due to the presence of a strange man who continues to follow her (played by director Herk Harvey), she is emotional, feeble, needy. She does not want to be alone. […]