Carnival of Souls (1998)
Film: Carnival of Souls
Director: Adam Grossman
Writer: Adam Grossman
Starring: Bobbie Phillips, Shawnee Smith and Larry Miller
This film starts with a young girl spying on two people in another room. The girl is played by Raquel Beaudene. The woman in the other room is her mother, played by Anna K. McKown. The man is Larry Miller. He is raping her and then Beaudene comes in to stop it. She picks up a gun that belongs to Miller and points it at him. Miller then breaks McKown’s neck and Beaudene flees.
She grows up to be played by Bobbie Phillips. She now owns and runs a bar that belonged to her mother. Helping her is her younger sister, played by Shawnee Smith. Smith isn’t overly reliable and is somewhat flaky. This is due to her trying to create a music career at the local bars. Also helping out at his bar is Cleavant Derricks.
I will point out here that this film has an odd timeline that jumps back and forth between the past and present. We learn that Phillips’ testimony is what put Miller away. Phillips sees a car that belonged to him and a red balloon. She gets into the car and he appears in the backseat. He puts a gun in her mouth and forces her to drive. They go to where the carnival was when Phillips and her family met Miller. To get out of the situation, she floors the car and crashes into the water.
She wakes up in the bathtub that is overflowing. Derricks is knocking at the door, trying to wake her up. The water is leaking to the bar below. They have to clean it up, but the water is still dripping even when they think they have gotten it all.
Phillips is haunted that Miller is out of prison and is after her. She goes as far to let Henry G. Sanders, a regular at the bar, to drink for free to look into Miller. The information he brings back though is that Miller is dead. Despite this, Phillips still sees him regularly and thinks he is out to get her.
Derricks finds out that there is some flooding in the basement so Phillips goes to get a pump to get the water out. She decides to get a carwash after she picks this up. She has a horrible vision that the truck she drives gets stuck and the carwash is leaking in. The water is starting to fill up the cab and then she wakes up in the water.
Phillips does meet a man, played by Paul Johansson, who catches her trespassing where the carnival used to be set-up. He is interested in her and offers to take her out on his boat. She declines, telling him she hates the water.
Smith can see that all of this is weighing on her mind. She wants to sell the bar, but Phillips goes back and forth with what she wants to do. Her visions are getting worse and aside from seeing Miller, she also sees these white, demon-like creatures. What is real and what is in her mind? Can she figure it out before it is too late?
Now I will lead off stating that this is the second time I’ve seen this film and I still am not a big fan. This is a loose remake of a film with the same name. This one really only brings up the surreal feel that the original did and not knowing what is real or what is fake. I will say that from this film, I do like that there is an issue of Phillips carrying the guilt of watching her mother die and that is the root of what is wrong with her. She can’t live it down and no matter what she knows to be real, she is still haunted by her guilt. I also normally am a fan of films that have surreal feels like this one does; the problem though is that the story doesn’t make sense. On top of that, I really didn’t seem to care, which I should feel bad about it, but the film doesn’t do enough for me to make a connection with to feel more for her. I didn’t mind the ending; I just didn’t completely understand how it was possible.
The acting left something to be desired. Phillips was attractive and she seeing her descent into madness was good, but her acting was subpar. She doesn’t really show much range for me which hurts this role for her. Smith doesn’t get a lot of screen time so I really didn’t have much of an opinion on her performance. She normally is very solid, especially in the scream queen role. Miller was great as the murderous clown who haunts Phillips. The rest of the cast weren’t very memorable.
For this I will talk about the effects first. They were all practical and I thought they looked good. The white demon-like creatures I was a big fan of actually. To go from this, the editing of the surreal scenes was good. They matched them up well with the next scene for it to make sense of the progression. The editing wasn’t good though in that I was bored throughout the film. It never built tension for me to care unfortunately. The score of the film also left something to be desired, but I did like the carnival music that was used.
Now with that said, this film wasn’t very good. It does do well at keeping with the feel of what the original did. It does have as strong a story though for it has the impact though. I liked the concept that the guilt Phillips is carrying is causing her to have these horrible visions that are haunting her. The acting in this was mediocre in my opinion. The effects that are used in the film were good, making the creatures look creepy. The surreal feel of the film I enjoyed. The editing did lack as the film was boring to me. It never builds the tension it needs. The score of the film also didn’t stand out. I feel this is a below average film. I would recommend the original and avoid this one.
My Rating: 4 out of 10