Friday, November 2, 2012

Carnival of Souls/Horror of Dracula

I'm back. I rode out Hurricane Sandy, but I also stayed offline until late Wednesday. Hope you and yours are safe and well. I've had another, unrelated project going on that has been taking up my time and has now been delayed, so posts may be kinda erratic for the next week or so.

Carnival of Souls
Horror of Dracula

I was originally gonna do these as separate posts, but because of the delay as a result of the hurricane, I've decided to do both of them in one so I can put this behind me. 

Carnival of Souls was the second half of the Friday twin bill at the Loews last weekend and the film I was most eager to see. The premise: a young woman who appears to survive a car crash gets a new job as a church organist in a small Utah town and keeps seeing weird, horrifying things and people that don't seem real, but haunt her nonetheless. 

A movie like this seems to invite multiple interpretations. What stood out for me was what seemed to be a theme of atheism versus faith. Mary works in a church, playing the organ, but she clearly is not a woman of faith, and more than one person remarks on the alleged contradiction: how can someone work in a house of worship without subscribing to its tenets? Mary insists it's just a job to her.

It's a good question, the more I think about it. I've been to churches, synagogues, and other places of worship and tolerated the services there, even if I didn't believe in the things being said, but some occasions have been harder to sit through than others. While my mind insists that organized religion is a crock, sermons appeal to the heart, and they're harder to ignore, especially when one hears them repeatedly over a period of time.

Mary believes she's being tormented and pursued by zombie-like beings. I tend to think that the zombies represent something, but I'm not sure what. Her conscience, perhaps? I do feel like there's some sort of inner conflict that Mary is struggling with, even though it's not made explicitly clear within the film's context. 

In addition to the faith versus atheism theme, Mary is presented as very self-reliant. She acts like she doesn't need anybody. Johnny, the neighbor who tries to score with her, is definitely kinda creepy and one can't really blame Mary for not wanting to hang out with him, but even when she sees a doctor for her hallucinations, she ends up deciding that she doesn't need him, that she can figure this out on her own. 

Maybe the zombies represent her regrets, some repressed part of her persona that she never allowed to come to the surface for whatever reason. Don't know... but the ambiguity of this film is a big reason why it's appealing.

As for Horror of Dracula, it's basically the original Dracula story, re-told Hammer Films-style, with Christopher Lee as the fanged one and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. The last time I saw these two together in a Hammer film was The Gorgon, from last Halloween. This was considerably better than that one, however I was disappointed to see so little of Lee, even though I admit I found it odd at first to see Dracula being played with a British accent.

The whole film felt unmistakably British: prim and proper and a bit staid, even in the face of such a classic horror story. It didn't have quite the level of menace and dread as the Lugosi version. Honestly, it felt kinda like the Masterpiece Theater version, which isn't necessarily an insult: it looks lovely and uses the location shots to great advantage. And it did have its moments: for instance the first time we see Lee in full vampire mode (see the image above) scared me for sure. Frank Langella remains my favorite Dracula. Cushing's Van Helsing is good, but I liked Anthony Hopkins' interpretation in Francis Ford Coppola's version better. 

Maybe the Halloween crowd was slightly different from the usual Loews crowd, but I found myself more aware of the audience during the movies, especially on Saturday during Dracula. Several people around me whispered stuff to their friends periodically throughout the movie, but  not enough to be truly annoying. I only had to shush somebody once, and that was when he tried to answer his cellphone. 

Maybe I just didn't want to start a row in my favorite movie theater. I mean, I'm willing to put up with some whispered asides during a movie, especially when it's part of an event such as this, but on Saturday night I felt like I was close to the limits of my tolerance. It didn't help that I felt a little crankier than I did on Friday night. I probably should've invited a friend or two to come with me, but I didn't.

The ride back into the city didn't help. Apparently there were many Halloween parties on Saturday, because I saw lots of people on the streets and in the trains in costume, and the ones on the PATH train heading into Manhattan were annoying. Actually, I find that whenever I come from the Loews on a Saturday night, I always see some cluster of skanky, tarted-up chicks on the PATH, presumably on their way to a club or bar somewhere in Manhattan. 

This time they were in costume, and they were the kind of costumes you'd expect: "sexy" cop, "sexy" soldier, etc. - and of course, there's always some girls with cat's ears on their head and painted cat's nose and whiskers. The interchangeability and blandness of these people never fail to set my teeth on edge, especially being in such close quarters with them. But that's just me.



  1. So glad to hear that you are well. I was travelling in the northeast over the last few weeks with no problems, but a few bloggers were on my mind, and you were one of them!

    I love Carnival of Souls. It's really bizarre and atmospheric. The Salt Lake City setting is kind of funny and odd, and the history of the resort is so quirky.

    I'll have to check out Horror of Dracula.

  2. Well, if you're ever in the NYC area, let me know so we can meet up.

    I'm definitely gonna wanna watch 'Carnival' again sometime soon. Something about it...

  3. I will do that. It would be great to meet you!


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