"Carnival of Souls," the only theatrical film every directed by Herk Harvey, is a cult classic with a most deserved reputation that puts it on a par with dead George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" in terms of shoestring productions. Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) accepts a car ride from a group of other young girls, only to end up in a drag race that sees the car go over a bridge with only Mary surviving. Having taken a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Mary heads for her new home, passing a deserted pavilion on the outskirts of town. Mary is drawn to the ruined bathing center/carnival, but has bigger problems since she keeps seeing a leering, corpse-like man (played by Harvey) watching her. Again and again Mary has the eerie of experience of suddenly finding herself in a silent world where no one seems to notice her. Eventually she returns to the pavilions to understand her final fate.
"Carnvial of Souls" came about because Herk Harvey drove by Saltair, the deserted 1940s tourist resort outside Salt Lake City, and decided it would make a powerful location for a horror film. Harvey recruited John Clifford to come up with a screenplay that would involve Harvey's image of dead bodies rising from the lake to pursue their victim. The finished product certainly evokes a nightmarish quality that makes you ignore the technical problems with overdubbing, campy performances by the supporting cast, and such. Hilligloss, trained in the Method by Strassberg but denied any hint of her character's motivation by the director, only made one other film, "Curse of the Living Corpse" (1964), but this film is enough to secure her reputation in the field. Sidney Berger (the all too friendly guy down the hall at her boarding house) does a cameo as a cop in the 1998 "Wes Craven Presents Carnival of Souls" debacle, which does not compare on any level to this evocative horror classic.