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25 May 2013 @ 03:21 pm
Movie Review: Carnival of Souls (continued)  
50_horror

Scene 34: With the doctor left, probably, wondering whether he's made a professional mistake by advising in areas which are not his expertise, Mary drives immediately out to the old pavilion.

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As she finds her way into and wanders around the abandoned, lakeside fair ground surrounding the pavilion the irritating organ music returns. Mary wanders through the funhouse attractions that were left standing when the place went out of business. (And, I do like how the organ music has changed to a merry-go-round calliope tune.)

As she wanders by some hanging metal barrels, they start bonging against one another, even though she never touched them and the air is still, startling her.

She wanders. Walking up to a slide, a mat comes out of nowhere down the chute as if someone was riding down it. Another startle, but she continues to explore anyway.


Scene 35: Mary finally makes her way inside the dominant building -- the pavilion with which she's become enamored. Things appear to be quite mundane, disregarding the odd mat and the barrels clanging against one another and she takes a rock and tosses it out into the abandoned lake.

But in that lake, Pasty-Face lies face up under the water. She doesn't see this. With a smile to herself that she's confronted her nascent obsession, she walks away lighter of step.

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Commentary: I generally like this sequence for the ambiance and the odd little notes that the dead are around her unseen, but it feels like it was stretched to add to the running time. A lot of watching Mary walk around.


Scene 36: Back at her boarding house, she happens to meet John as he's just returning from work (presumably). John tries to invite her for dinner, again, and again he's shut down. He asks her if she's afraid of men, because she seems distant when he's trying to talk to her when just that morning, he thought they had gotten on good together [Well, for goodness sake, quit sounding like it is all about dipping your penis and maybe she wouldn't keep pushing you away, ya horndog!].

When she explains that she needed the company that morning, he suggests that perhaps some night she'll need company again [See -- you're so transparent. Maybe she wants the illusion of a real date, rather than just you wanting to get under her dress like a clod]. He offers to walk her back from the church, where she stated she'll be spending her evening practicing [Speaking of, we haven't seen her actually work since she was hired].

She finally agrees when he mentions that walking home with somebody has got to be better than walking home alone.


Scene 37: That evening, Mary is playing. The camera work tells us that something is off-kilter, as we get shaky cam and possible POV-cam through the organ pipe assembly at her. Mary herself starts to notice the atmosphere, as her playing trails off. She suddenly starts looking at her hands strangely.

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As Mary returns to the organ keys, she gets a distinct dazed look on her face, like she's suddenly not completely in control of her actions. As she looks around herself, the camera-view does another sudden skip-jump to the viewpoint looking out from the pavilion, suggesting that Mary wasn't as successful as she thought she was in confronting the place.

Also of note, we get a flash of water rippling suggesting the river where Mary should have drowned, considering how long she was missing after the accident. And as we return to her looking further flustered, the tune she's playing becomes more calliope-inspired, rather than religious.

Mary's growing sense of hysteria quickens as she sees a full moon (from her vantage point, she couldn't possibly see any such thing) and then Pasty-Face lying in his lake grave opening his eyes to stare at her. In Mary's vision, Pasty-Face walks up out of the lake with intent attention on staring her down. And, he's not alone.

As Mary's perceptions grow more off-kilter and dizzying, she sees a group of the dead dancing on the pavilion grounds to her organ music. Pasty-Face the walks away from the rest of the whirling dead and comes for her with his hands outstretched and a smile on his face. His hands reach out to cover hers and stills them with her fingers resting on the keys and the organ grows louder.


Commentary: I liked this scene for its moody effectiveness, but it feels like things are escalating a bit too late into the movie. Again, there are some great shots, but it feels like this is an episode stretched to movie length. While I wouldn't say that I'm bored at all, I do wish things would more dramatically pick up the pace for Mary and close in on the final denouement.


Scene 38: Mary is suddenly brought back to herself by the minister's hands over hers stopping her from playing. He's in a tizzy because of her "profane, disrespectful" music she was playing on the church organ. She looks more dazed and confused than sacrilegious.

The minister goes off on a rant over her "soullessness" and lack of reverence and immediately calls for her resignation as the organist, devastating her. She doesn't speak as she gathers up her sheet music to leave in tears.

The minister urges her to accept the help of the church to recover her "soul", but she continues to wander out without a word.


Commentary: Yes, minister -- you did sound like a fanatic. And yes, you did sound like you had abandoned her to her sinfulness out of organ music, despite your attempts to recover by telling her you weren't abandoning her!

I'm really not understanding the obsession with churchfolk wanting Mary to be more religious in order to play the organ. And the reaction of the minister to her playing a song not in the songbook is OTT, and completely unexplained as to why her choice of song is so reprehensible to him. It was just a piece of music, it's not like she was singing bawdy lyrics or exchanging the organ for rock-guitars. What am I missing, here?



Minister has the decency to look guilt-stricken at his harshness toward her, though he still fired her.


Scene 39: Outside, John has been waiting for Mary to wrap it up. Although the deal was for him to walk her home earlier, now he's brought his car and then dragged her out to a dance joint, where she sits looking bored and he's swigging down beer.

With Mary not being into the date that John set up and suddenly sprang on her, he turns a bit nasty by pointing out how she doesn't like the things he likes -- dancing, swing music and drinking -- especially drinking. For some reason, Mary doesn't throw the fact that she was just fired in his face for a reason not to be appreciative of his efforts to seduce.

Having said his peace, he snottily tells her he's going to play the same song over again, since she claims not to hate it despite her bored behavior.


Scene 40: At the jukebox, John is greeted by someone he knows. The new guy asks after "the doll". Chip suggests that Mary is a cut above the girls he's usually seen John with. They joke and Chip decides that he has to introduce himself and see if he can poach a little of John's action. John puts the kibosh on that by warning Chip off and telling him that he doesn't want Mary to know that he even knows creeps like Chip.

Chip takes it in good humor and wishes him luck on "closing the deal".


Scene 41: When he returns to the table, Mary asks after his friend. John tells her that Chip was trying to introduce him to a girl, but he refused as he's happy to be there with Mary. She doesn't really have anything to say about that [but I'm pretty sure she's thinking that a random girl breaking into this painful 'date' could only improve the evening].

John nearly apologizes for dragging Mary there, but she tells him that she appreciates his taking her out as she's had a miserable night. John pours a bit more beer in her full glass and tells her to drink up, but then is pissed when she only sips it demurely. She apologizes for annoying him.

They play a passive-aggressive dance with one another, before Mary tells him (with seemingly obvious ambiguity) that she wants to spend the night near him.

This certainly improves his mood as he suggests they get back to his place. He has "SCORE!!" written all over his face.


Scene 42: When they return to the boarding house, and John is done stumbling drunkenly up the stairs, Mary has apparently rethought spending the night with him. She goes to her own apartment, but he tries his hand again at seduction [Jeezus -- like a dog with a bone; have a little pride, you neanderthal].

Mary allows him in, but it's clearly because she's caught between not wanting to be alone and also not wanting to have a tryst. While he clearly has no interest in being with her, if she isn't going to give it up.


Commentary: Which is the dance they've been doing since she arrived. These two are clearly perfect for each other (/snark). I'm really bored with John as a character and I don't understand his place in the story or why Mary would be giving him the time of day.


John follows across the room to where Mary leans heavily on her bureau. When he kisses at her neck, she raises her head and sees Pasty-Face over her shoulder in the mirror in John's place. When she spins around with a scream of horror, John isn't even standing where she thought he was. He's several paces away from her, as she approaches hysterics.

John drunkenly demands to know what is wrong with her, but when she starts to cryingly tell him about the Pasty-Face after her, he bolts while calling her crazy.

Mary, crying, yells that she doesn't want to be left alone, completely opposite from where she started and what she told the doctor when she did want to be left separated from people. She completely melts down into hysterical crying now. The soundtrack has returned to an uptempo organ tune as Mary drags her bureau to block her door.

In another nice shot, we follow Mary's frantic movements in her small apartment from outside where we only see her shadow as she dashes to and fro around the cramped space as the organ tune grows louder, again.


Scene 43: The following morning, Mrs. Thomas is sitting in the foyer. She's been waiting for the town doctor who had been called to see to Mary. He now speaks to the landlady, where we find out that the Doctor wasn't called at all. He just happened to drop by, because he hasn't been able to stop thinking about her since he tried to assist her in his office after the park incident. Landlady (rather lamely) assures the doctor that she was going to call somebody, regardless.

The doctor finds out from Mrs. Thomas that Mary spent the whole night moving furniture around and that she wouldn't let the old woman into the apartment this morning.

The doctor tells Mrs. Thomas that whatever Mary is going through, she refuses any of his help. The landlady says she can't allow someone so unstable to stay in the house, but the doctor reassures her by saying that Mary has no intention of staying. She told him of her plans to leave the city as quickly as is possible.


Scene 44: Upstairs, Mary is just finishing with her packing of her suitcase. She wanders downstairs in a bit of a daze. When Mrs. Thomas asks where she's heading, Mary doesn't answer - she just has a weird look on her face and silently strodes out.

Mrs. Thomas calls out that she can't refund any of Mary's prepaid week's rent if she's just going to go off, but Mary doesn't respond and continues to her car.

Mary's car doesn't sound too good.


Scene 45: As she's driving, Mary's exit from the city is blocked by her uncooperative car, which sounds like its wheezing its last suddenly. She's forced to stop before she can leave at the garage to have it diagnosed.

Just from the sounds of it, the mechanic thinks it's the transmission and has her pull up onto the rack. She's concerned with the length of time it will take, but the mechanic tells her he needs to check it out. He's opening the door to help her out, when she grabs it and yanks it shut, startling him. She asks him if she can just sit while he lifts it up and checks underneath.


Scene 46: Outside, somebody else pulls up to the pump so mechanic has to go jockey gasoline. Mary is left sitting up in her car. She lies her head back for a moment to rest her eyes, when suddenly a bright light flashes in her face.

This turns out to be sunlight from a door that has been creakily opened. As a shadow of a person begins to darken the door, the sounds of the outside world fade out, like back in the dress shop. The soundtrack's organ begins again.

Mary begins to feel more frantic, quickly rolling up her windows and locking her doors. A hand turns the dial for the air pressure raising the car and it begins lowering. In the car, she huddles against the passenger door as the sounds of footsteps approaches the car. She then leans against the car door in terror and gives a short cry of alarm as the door opens dumping her out.


Scene 47: The mechanic, having heard the cry, goes in to have a look. But meanwhile, Mary is dashing out of the garage and down the street. She goes directly to the bus depot. As she walks across the lobby though, she has wobble-vision again and the sound around her has once again gone silent in preference for organ.

Like at the dress shop, the ticket agent doesn't respond to her presence and when another customer arrives, both act like she isn't there.

Mary looks around herself after her pleas to be allowed to leave fall on deaf ears of everyone in the depot with her. From the speaker on the wall, an echo-voice announces the next bus is leaving from gate 9 and Mary determines to be on it - ticket or no ticket.

As she dashes to the bus, her shoes echo-click-clack.


Scene 48: Aboard Mary's bus, all of the passengers are Pasty-Faces. They stand and laugh at her as she rushes off of the bus and runs for her life.

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Mary next rushes across town to the train depot, but again her exit from the city is blocked, this time by a locked gate and a gate agent who doesn't notice her.

The entire sequence is accompanied by only her clacking heels and the soundtrack organ. Mary is pleading to be allowed to leave when she sees something that causes her to get a terror-stricken expression. Presumably, she saw more Pasty-Faces grinning at her.

She dashes off into an alleyway, where a VW van approaches. With no one noticing that she exists, it nearly runs her down before she's able to duck into a doorway.

She ends up dashing all over town, looking for someone to notice that she's there but she's met with non-notice everywhere she goes for help.


Scene 49: Mary ends up back in the park again, exhausted. But as she hangs on to a tree, she notices that she can hear a bird chirping. The cityscape sounds return to her ears to her great relief. She goes directly to the doctor who had tried to help her.


Commentary: I really liked this entire sequence until it ended with Mary returning to the real world, again. The pacing on this one is weird because I'm actually enjoying each scene, and yet, it still feels like there isn't enough happening to build toward a climax for the film. I'm not exactly bored by Mary's story, but I'm also wanting the supernatural haunting or the mundane sanity slippage of Mary to escalate already.


Scene 50: In the doctor's office, Mary opines that she doesn't really belong in the world and that something she can't explain separates her from those around her.

The doctor is turned away in his chair, presumably jotting down notes as she speaks, which we saw the last time she was here. But I can see the top of his head, and I can already tell it's Pasty-Face himself listening to her.

Mary goes on to insist that "they" are everywhere around her and they won't let her leave. She's afraid for her sanity as reality seems to be slipping away from her. She begs the doctor to help and advise her. But naturally when he turns around in the chair, Mary finds out what I already knew.

She screams and runs.

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Commentary: And, see my rule of pacing. When we reach beyond about scene 45, the movie is tending to drag. A lot of the middle portions of the film could have been let go to shorten the running time, but things are beginning to pick up a bit as we near the ending for Mary's story. I'm still left with the impression that this would have made a better Twilight Zone than a feature length movie.


Scene 51: Suddenly, Mary finds that she's screaming in her car, where she was gripping the steering wheel!

When she looks around, she's still sitting in the garage (but not up in the air on the rack). She nearly plows down the surprised mechanic as she reverses out onto the street and drives away without getting her transmission fixed.


Scene 52: Mary finds herself driving back to the pavilion. She finds herself wandering dazed within the amusement park grounds. Dusk is setting when she walks across the grounds.

Mary ends up overlooking the lake, where she begins to see Pasty-Faces coming up out of the water, much like in her vision. This time she doesn't react with terror, but with numb acceptance. As she watches things unfold, the abandoned pavilion lights up and dance music starts to play. The dead begin their dance.

Mary watches them go around and around in each others' arms.

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Commentary: This is the only shot really, that I think was a mistake by the director. We end up seeing close up POV's of the dead with their pancake makeup and it doesn't look nearly as creepy as when they're in long shots. But more, it is pulling us out of Mary's viewpoint very suddenly, whereas I think it would have been wiser to stay completely in Mary's subjective view from the moment that she entered the grounds. This shot of the dancing couples, as if we're their dancing partner wasn't really necessary, and subtracts rather than adding to the narrative. At this point, it's my opinion that there shouldn't be any shots at all that could be outside of Mary's perspective.


Pasty-Face is there and he's dancing around also... with someone who is Mary's dead doppleganger. This figure seems to shift between looking like Mary, and looking completely like someone else... equally dead.

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Live-Mary can't take anymore of the scene she's witnessing and with a wild scream runs away -- with the dead quickly rushing on her heels after her.


Scene 53: Mary runs away with the dead laughing right behind her. And the dusk has become the middle of the day while she was watching the dancing. She retreats under the building, running among the pilings holding the place up, but the dead have followed and seem to be treating the whole thing like a game of hide and seek.

The organ music is in full effect and the natural sounds have dropped out of the soundtrack again, of course, as throughout the picture.

Mary's left running and stumbling along the lakeside beach, where she falls to the sand with a scream. The dead surround her and crowd close to her until all light is blocked out and she's left in darkness.


Scene 54: Sometime later, we see the sheriff, the minister, the doctor and random guy on the beach. The sheriff points out that Mary's car was still parked out front and they found a set of her shoe prints leading to this location. We can see the indentation in the sand where she collapsed, but of Mary there is not a sign.

The Sheriff tells the gathered men that nothing indicates any way that she could have left the spot where she fell.

The men look disturbed, and gaze across the beach at the abandoned pavilion that Mary was so fascinated with.

Our camera-pov focuses in before it dissolves to a view of the river where Mary's accident took place.


Commentary: I really like this shot, connecting Mary's encounter on the waterfront with Mary's encounter with the river.


Scene 55: On the river, two men are working on the salvage of the discovered automobile wreckage from the river bottom. When it's pulled in from the bottom, all three girls are still in the front seat together. This, of course, includes Mary.

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We get a final shot of the pavilion, and the movie ends.


Commentary: So, I like this ending which suggests that everything Mary experienced from the time the car hit the water has been nothing more than a figment of her imagination... a dying dream of a drowning woman. But there is also enough ambiguity that she could have actually become a living ghost... a sort of woman in white figure who tried to live out her life as the dead pursued her to force her to accept that she died. The reason I give for this, is the weird sort of delusion this would have been if it was all only in her mind. Why would her pursuers be nobody that she knew? Why would she 'create' someone like John? What sort of delusion would there be about the Sheriff at the end, which suggests all of these people were real and some of them did know a strange girl named Mary who suddenly vanished without explanation from a lakeside pavilion.

The ambiguous nature of just how much of Mary's post-drowning existence actually occurred is interesting. But, I'm also wishing there had been more of a follow up scene after Mary's body is pulled from the river with her and the Pasty-Face. I think it would have been a better ending if we'd seen that her pursuer was a dead father figure, or her mentor who had actually been deceased when she was speaking to him after her accident. The film could then have ended at the pavilion with him dancing with her off into a fade out of all of the dead spinning around in each others' arms.

The ending, while interesting, isn't fully satisfying to me.



The Good: I really enjoyed Candace Hilligoss' performance throughout. It was a lot for her, because she had to carry the entire movie herself and I think she did a worthy job of it.

I enjoyed a lot of individual shots in regards to Mary's ghostly reflections from glass surfaces and her reactions to them. It adds a nice suggestion that in the back of her mind, perhaps Mary knew the entire time that her 'new life' wasn't real and never would be, but she was desperately running from that truth.


The Bad: I think the point of view of the film makers has ultimately turned out as muddled as the audiences.

Also, though I liked the actor's work, the character of John was just too one note for the amount of time we had to spend with him.


Other Thoughts: I have to say that I loved the theme at the beginning, especially while Mary was on the bridge after her accident and before she left town. But, as the movie went on (and on), I started to get really sick of it. It's monotonous droning was threatening to give me a headache as it continued showing up either as a soundtrack, or as Mary practicing.

I'm a bit confused about the focus on Mary's "soul" and her "irreligiosity" throughout that everyone around her keeps mentioning. On the one hand, perhaps they're sensing that she's a walking ghost "no life to her" ... or, perhaps Mary in her dying moments was concerned about the state of her soul and her disbelief in God? I don't know. I can't make what this was supposed to be about clear in my mind.

I'm also really unclear (except of course that the director fell in love with the location) why Mary would be so taken with the pavilion, or why the dead would make this such a central location in their interactions with her, whether a dying dream or whether it is really taking place as Mary's ghost slips away from life to join the dead where she belongs. It could have worked maybe if there had been mention of a terrible accident in which party goes at the pavilion had drowned. Maybe there could have been a large deck that had at one time jutted out over the lake that collapsed, explaining why these dead are after Mary. All of them drowned and Mary drowned, making it their desire to collect her and bring her over, or something along those lines. But we get no special reasoning behind making this such a focal point within the movie's universe.

I think I wish that they'd take the position that we'd only see scenes that Mary herself would be privy to. It's confusing to think Mary could be "real" even though she died, while at the same time, it isn't really convincing for this to be a dying dream hallucination because we break away to see scenes that Mary isn't present for and ergo couldn't be explained as part of her delusion that she escaped. She had to be real as a living ghost, didn't she? But if she was real, then what would've happened if they'd found her body? What would have happened if they hadn't? Why were the dead so concerned with retrieving her if she was, for all intents and purposes, living a solid life as if she hadn't died at all. And how can anyone explain having had physical interactions with her after her corpse is located in the river? Maybe the story would have worked a lot better if Mary hadn't actually ever touched anyone throughout, especially with John. Or again, they needed to only show scenes that Mary would be a direct part of. Either way, the Ghost vs. Dream ending would have worked better if there hadn't been so much very solid physical contact with her for extended periods (especially when it came to John).

The pacing was odd on this one, and I can't decide how I feel about it ultimately. I enjoyed each scene on its own, but it also felt that each time the movie started to build up the horror, it quickly let the tension deflate. Toward the late quarter of the movie, the tension should have been kept at a fever level, rather than to continue in fits and starts. On the other hand, I didn't find myself bored with it or wishing that it would just be over like in some movies I've reviewed.


The Score: This is an odd psychological thriller with overtones of supernatural horror, but I'm not sure that it isn't too little of each to avoid being a muddled film, which is different than simply being ambiguous. I think I like the movie and found it an interesting experience, but I'm not sure that it will haunt me later.

3.25 out of 5 stars


--end--

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