It’s probably the completely wrong thing to start out with, but Carnival of Souls is absolutely ruined by being colorized.
“But wait”, you cry, “Carnival of Souls was ruined by being made!”
Well, frankly, that’s a little catty and I expected better out of you. The boys from Rifftrax (Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy) snidely note one of the slower scenes—okay, I think it’s when the heroine is stopping for gas—as one of the scenes that attracted the “Criterion Collection” people. That’s right, you can actually pay over $30 for a Blu-ray of this film with a documentary on the making thereof, director commentary, deleted scenes, some kind of reunion thingy…
But, wait, we’re watching this because Rifftrax is making fun of it, right?
We are! And, quite frankly, they do a bang up job. The Boy was really favorably impressed: He has been noting that the original “Mystery Science Theater 3000” approach—get low budget, slow-paced movies—works way better than the “taking all comers” approach of Rifftrax. The big budget fiascos, Godzilla and Starship Troopers, are fun but they’re also very hard to process. You miss a lot of the jokes. The other thing we all agreed was that the sketches of the TV show break up what can otherwise be pretty monotonous.
And I miss the robots. (But that’s why we backed the MST3K revival.)
Anyway, the point is a moody, slow-paced, atmospheric horror film like Carnival is perfect for riffing: There’s so much air in it, about the only time you’re not laughing is when the movie has literally moved so slow, there’s virtually nothing left to riff on. (The films of Coleman Francis leap sluggishly to mind.) It’s a good riff, is what I’m saying, and if you like riffing, this riff is for you.
The story is simple enough: Three girls decide to race with a couple of guys down a badly maintained road and over a dubious bridge. The girls go off the side into the river, and only one emerges: Mary, the professional organist. She quickly leaves town to take a job in a church in Utah, but along the way, and once there, she’s haunted by a spectral vision. A pale man seems to appear, impossibly in her car window (as she drives along the highway), in front of her, out of her second story boarding house window, and so on.
And then, at times, she seems completely invisible to people. Even when she is visible, she’s distant. She’s distractable. She has no interest in men, or any other humans, or their activities.
It’s a creepy movie. And if you like creepy, slow-moving, atmospheric horror, I recommend it straight up. But even if you don’t, you can enjoy the Rifftrax version! And I can certainly easily recommend that.