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Film Review: Carnival of Souls (1998)

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SYNOPSIS:

A young girl witnesses the rape and murder of her mother by her circus clown boyfriend who she thinks has now come back for her as an adult.

REVIEW:

Director: Adam Crossman
Starring: Bobbie Phillips, Larry Miller, Shawnee Smith

Our movie opens with a young girl who hears strange noises coming from somewhere in the house. Upon investigation, she finds her mother struggling with her boyfriend who is attempting to rape her. The girl then sees her mother murdered. 20 years later Alex Grant (Bobbie Phillips) now owns her mother’s bar along with her younger sister, Sandra (Shawnee Smith) and both young women are trying to keep the bar going even though it seems to be falling apart around them.

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Bobbie, still haunted by the events from her past begins to see her mother’s killer Louis Seagram (Larry Miller) everywhere she goes. Louis, you see, was a carnival clown and also a pedophile that started dating Bobbie’s mother to get closer to her daughters. Bobbie is now convinced that Louis has come back for her in order to murder her. Bobbie begins seeing red balloons everywhere she turns which leads to visions of Louis as he attempts to murder her. She also sees freakish demonic carnival creatures as well. Is she really seeing Louis and these monsters or is everything just in her head? She needs to find out before she ends up dead and her sister next in line as victim.

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Carnival of Souls is a remake in name only of the 1962 movie Carnival of Souls starring Candace Hilligoss and directed by Herk Harvey. If you are hoping to see an actual remake, don’t see this movie. Watch this movie knowing that it has nothing to do with the older film. This movie was billed with the strong name of Wes Craven as one of the producers and admittedly, Craven’s name in 1998 had quite a backing.

That’s not to say that this film is bad. It’s not at all. For what it is, it’s a decent little fright picture. The story isn’t original anything original or great for that matter but what the movie lack in originality it makes up for in style. Larry Miller does a great job as the creepy pedophile clown who makes no bones about what he wants to do, even in the scenes with younger Bobbie and that works on the creepy factor. There are also the visions of the weird “cenobite-like” creatures that haunt Bobbie. Seriously, these things look like they were taken right from the Hellraiser world.

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The actors are about par for the course for a movie from this era. Certainly no Oscar winning performances, but pretty run of the mill work by all involved. It’s not really their fault as much as it is the writers who tried to make this a serious horror film. It’s pretty predictable how the story turns out, if you’ve seen enough of these movies. The music is less than stellar as most of it seems to be circus music. There is one fairly creepy scene that involves a “love” scene between Louis and Bobbie that works but it’s not really enough to make the movie anything more than something to fill a need to watch some cheesy horror from the 90’s.

Had Wes Craven had more to do with this movie than producing it then maybe it would have turned out to be a better film, but having his name on the title does nothing more than make you hope for something more than mediocre.

I saw this movie when it first came to video and at the time I liked it and while I still enjoyed watching it now, it’s reminded me how fun it is to watch cheesy horror movies and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you know ahead of time that is what your are sitting down to watch. Don’t expect anything scary (unless, of course, clowns make you shiver). But have fun watching the event unfold and see how soon you catch how it will end.

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