How Obscure Horror Film 'Carnival of Souls' Influenced Everything You've Ever Seen

'Carnival of Souls' art house and horror no film school fandor keyframe
More filmmakers and movies have been influenced by director Herk Hervey's indie horror film Carnival of Souls than you might realize.

No one would blame you if you've never heard of Carnival of Souls—it's a bit of an obscure B-movie from 1962 that was directed by a guy who made a cautionary educational film about spreading venereal diseases. But, from its simple plot and low budget, Hervey weaved a tapestry of sound and image that has continued to influence filmmakers from George Romero to David Lynch, something Fandor Keyframe's Phillip Brubaker examines in this video essay.

 Video is no longer available:

The essay argues that the film was the antecedent for, among other things, the zombie swarms who would appear in a graveyard six years later in Romero's ur-zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead. Brubaker also claims that the film's mind-blowing, crazy, WTF twist influenced Haley Joel Osment's finest hour in 1999's The Sixth Sense, as well as the pancaked makeup Hervey wore, which seems to be a direct ancestor of Robert Blake's Mystery Man in Lost Highway, Lynch's 1997 movie about, um—the hazards of being a jazz saxophonist, I think. 


Now yes, okay, sure, one could argue that perhaps these directors never saw this movie, but I think that argument would be more likely to be made by someone who hadn't seen this movie, if that makes sense.

In these great days, when films which were formerly only available via university archives or special revivals or museums are all readily available online, then its incumbent on you, the tyro, the voice of tomorrow, to seek out as many obscure and weird movies as you can, because you never know when inspiration will strike, or from whence it will arrive. And also, it's all been done. So don't worry. You're just doing it different. And now, for sitting through that rant, here's a treat, an interview with the legendary director of Carnival of Souls, Mr. Herk Hervey himself! 

Happy Halloween, y'all!     

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1 Comment

Arcade rail shooter Carnevil was influenced by this movie too I believe.

October 31, 2016 at 10:50AM

Brandon Renz

Cool article, thanks!
(It's driving me crazy, though--could you fix the typos on Herk Harvey's name? in byline link and in body of article--Harvey, not Hervey.)

October 31, 2017 at 12:40PM