Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Ghost Webcam, Attachment, Friday the 13 A New Beginning, and Carnival of Souls (Both versions)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 221
We’ve got our usual lineup of four movies and a short film this week— This time, it’s a wild assortment of weirdness!
Oh, bother! It’s “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey!” Also, we’ll solve an online mystery with “Ghost Webcam,” watch the Jewish alternative to The Exorcist, “Attachment,” and reboot with “Friday the 13: A New Beginning.”
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For our bonus reviews, we have:
• “Carnival of Souls” (1962)
• And “Carnival of Souls” (1998)
We’ve got two announcements this week pertaining to our books:
1. NEW! “The Horror Guys Guide to the Films of Peter Cushing” is available now at all the usual places, including our web store: https://brianschell.com/b/cushing. This is one of our biggest books yet, looking at all fiftyof Cushing’s horror films and eight of his other influential movies.
2. FREE! ”The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films” is available now, exclusively at our web store, https://brianschell.com/b/halloween. The eBook version is completely free. Enjoy! Note that it’s also available as a paperback, but that one’s obviously not free. Also note, that there are a couple of other free books on the site as well!
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
• The Horror Films of Peter Cushing New!
• The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films (Free!)
• The Horror Films of Vincent Price
• Universal Studios' Shock! Theater
• Universal Studios' Son of Shock!
• A Sextet of Strange Stagings: Six Surprising Scripts
Here. We. Go!
Winnie The Pooh Blood and Honey (2023)
• Directed by Rhys Frake-Waterfield
• Written by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, A. A. Milne
• Stars Nikolai Leon, Maria Taylor, Craig David Dowsett
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is what happens when copyrights expire into the public domain. The monster effects were stiff, but the gore was realistically gory and well done. Despite our expectations, this was surprisingly entertaining.
We get an animated introduction of how Christopher Robin ran into a bunch of half-breed abominations in the woods. He befriended them all and brought them food. They became great friends, but eventually, Christopher grew up and left to attend college and become a doctor. The mutant animals were left alone to fend for themselves; they nearly starved. They ate Eeyore out of desperation. They learned to hate all things human, especially Christopher Robin. They renounced their humanity, swearing never to talk again and to revert to their animal roots.
We cut to the modern day. Christopher Robin is showing the Hundred-Acre Wood to his fiancé Mary. She doesn’t believe his old stories, he must have been a lonely child who imagined Pooh and his friends. She’s only come along to support him. They walk for hours looking for these creatures.
They reach the place, but it’s changed. She’s terrified, but he swears they aren’t in any danger. They go into the creepy old playhouse and find a defaced photo of Christopher. They hide as something large walks into the room. They stay under the bed and wait for the thing to fall asleep before sneaking outside.
Suddenly, a man-sized pig-monster grabs Mary and kills her as Christopher screams, “Piglet, No!” Piglet and Pooh close in on either side of Christopher as he apologizes for leaving them alone. They cook and eat Mary while dragging off Christopher Robin as their prisoner. Credits roll as we get reports of mutilated bodies and monsters in the woods. There are blurry photos in the newspaper as they call Pooh the “Bigfoot of Hundred Acre Woods.”
We cut to Maria, who’s talking to her therapist. She’s still traumatized by memories of a stalker. The therapist says getting away from the city would be a great help for her.
On her way to her “retreat,” she stops at a creepy old gas station. She and her four friends all arrive at their rental house and put their phones in a box so they can get away from all the tech. Tina tries to call them from the road, as she got lost. She’s chased through the woods by Pooh, who eventually catches and runs her through a woodchipper.
Maria shares her stalker experience with the others. We get a flashback about someone watching her. One night, the stalker even came into her bedroom while she slept. The police eventually caught the guy, but she’s still got some PTSD issues.
We cut to Christopher Robin crying and explaining to Pooh why he left. He’s chained up next to Mary’s stripped-clean bones. Pooh has a flashback to his happy childhood with Christopher promising they’d be “together forever.” Pooh whips him with Eeyore’s tail.
As Pooh carries Mary’s body out to the woods, he hears music from the girl’s cabin. He brings Piglet along with him to help this time. Piglet just happens to have some chloroform, and they grab one of the girls and crush her head with a car.
The four remaining friends soon figure out that there’s a killer outside. Maria assumes it’s her previous stalker and flips out. Pooh finds his way inside, and we see that Maria has a gun. Piglet catches Zoe and Alice in the pool house with his sledgehammer.
Alice isn’t dead, and Maria and Jessica go after her. They find Christopher Robin hanging in the barn and release him.
They find another woman chained up who says that the creatures are named “Pooh” and “Piglet.” She says they can speak, and she wants revenge. She takes Maria’s gun and starts calling for Piglet. The gun only has one bullet, and she wastes it. The two animal men pour honey on her and chow down.
Alice, on the other hand, whacks Piglet with a shovel and chains him to a pole before going at him with the sledgehammer. Pooh comes in and kills her with a machete.
Maria and Jessica run into the road and flag down four men in a pickup truck. Pooh approaches. “What is that? It ain’t human, but ain’t no bear either.” We soon learn that Pooh can take a lot of punishment—also, Pooh has claws. Pooh commands the bees to swarm around the last man, stinging him to death.
The two girls drive off in the truck, but Pooh jumps on the back. There’s an accident, and Pooh tears Jessica in half, leaving only Maria.
Christopher Robin comes out of nowhere in his car and rams Pooh, sandwiching him between the two trucks. Pooh starts limping after them with a knife as both the cars explode.
Christopher pleads with Pooh about how things used to be, “The good is still in there. Take me instead. I’ll stay with you forever.” Pooh growls something and kills Maria.
Christopher Robin runs off into the woods, screaming, and Pooh goes to work on Maria’s corpse.
Where did Pooh and Piglet get those Airstream campers? Where’s the electricity coming from?
“Eeyore, R.I.P.” Other than that, we don’t know anything about what became of the other occupants of the Hundred-Acre Wood.
The forest sets look very much like a stage. Pooh and Piglet are both actors in completely expressionless masks. They work around the limitation as best they can, but it’s still not convincing. The bees are subtle, but you can see them in a few scenes- it would have been nice to see more of that, but the budget clearly wouldn’t cover it.
It’s a ridiculous concept exploiting the fact that Pooh and company recently fell into the public domain. Still, it’s not as bad as it could have been. There’s also enough untouched material for an easy sequel.
It pains me to admit it, but I was entertained throughout.
Ghost Webcam (2023)
• Directed by Sebastian Dove
• Written by Sebastian Dove, Gabriel Molnar
• Stars Cassandra Due, Emonjay Brown, Kahlo De Jesus Buffington, Nicholas Thurkette
• Run Time: 1 Hour
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This looked like it had a super low budget, but good acting and a good script turned it into a decent work. The only real complaint would be that it was a little drawn out and might have been more effective if it was shorter.
Nate turns on his webcam and tries to call Mia, but there’s no picture of her. It’s some kind of dating app and the two start talking about philosophy. He’d love to date her in person, but he’s under house arrest and literally cannot go out. She talks about getting arrested once for disorderly conduct.
Nate starts having some trouble with his internet connection, so he freezes for a moment. Mia suggests that it could be a ghost, which he thinks is amusing. He doesn’t believe in ghosts and thinks all ghostly TV shows are staged. She sends him to ghostwebcam.com and wants him to watch it.
He goes to the site and sees what she describes as “a haunted house.” He demonstrates how easy it is to fake a chair moving on the camera. “The Internet is just a web of lies,” he mansplains to her. She watches the chair on the website move on its own and gets scared. He thinks this is a waste of time.
Mia hears something thump in her house and says she lives alone. She goes off to check it out as he waits. “She’s here. The ghost.” Nate watches words appear on Mia’s wall, “Mia You’re Next.” The call goes dead.
Nate calls Kate and tells her he thinks he witnessed a murder. He tells her about the call with Mia. She doesn’t see how the ghost would have gone from the haunted house to Mia’s house to attack her. Kate goes to the ghostwebcam.com site and doesn’t see anything. She thinks maybe Nate is cracking up with stress from his upcoming trial date.
Vick joins the call, and he wants to see the haunted house link too. The three discuss the existence of ghosts. The ghost writes “Vick” on the dust on the table in the haunted house. They look up the phone number of the guy who runs the website, but there’s no answer. The guy almost immediately calls Nate back, but he says it’s not his website.
Stan joins the call. He says he hasn’t used that website since the early 2000s. Someone else must have poached his domain. It was just a blog before, but now it’s a webcam. That’s his old house on the screen; he moved out two years ago.
The ghost writes “It’s time” on the dust, and Stan is confused. They do a search on the property records and find out that Mia is the current owner of the house—but the photo was taken in 1979. The photo is from her obituary.
The ghost camera now shows Stan’s current home. It’s outside. “It’s here.” Stan walks off-screen and the connection drops. Nate, Vick, and Kate debate the reality of the situation. The topic turns to Nate’s upcoming trial, the prosecutor, and the evidence. They look up Stan and find that he died thirty years ago. They find a photo of Stan and Mia together—in the 70s.
Vick gets ready to log off but hears the ghost coming for him. The ghost camera now shows the outside of Vick’s front door. Vick locks himself in the bathroom, but there’s someone in the house with him. They watch Vick die onscreen.
Now the website is showing the outside of Nate’s house. He tells Kate that this is her chance to hang up and run away. Nate’s parole officer calls, and Nate tries to convince him of what’s been going on. Nate’s GPS shows that he’s downtown—at Kate’s address.
The webcam changes, and now the camera is showing Rachel’s house; she’s Nate’s ex, the one who accused him of sexual assault. He tries to call Rachel to warn her about the ghost, but he’s been blocked. Kate tries to call but can’t get through.
Nate spots people standing behind Kate. It’s Vick and Stan. She accuses him of lying about what happened to Rachel. “I despise you,” she says. She says she’s not Kate, she’s Mia. “You haven’t learned anything, have you?” Nate insists that Rachel bruised herself; he didn’t do it.
Mia/Kate tells her story about how Stan, her father, raped her when she was twelve. Then the ghost webcam comes back on, and the original Mia is on the screen. She jumps out and “gets” Nate.
Tim, someone new, turns on his webcam. He’s talking to a girl named Mia…
There’s been a lot of these webcam horror films since Covid. Some are good, some aren’t. This one looks good, and the acting is fine, but it’s awfully drawn out. There have been similar stories told in fifteen minutes, and they were better for it.
As soon as anything bad happens, the cameras go off. There’s literally zero action, and all violence happens off-screen, but they still manage some creepiness.
• Directed by Gabriel Bier Gislason
• Written by Gabriel Bier Gislason
• Stars David Dencik, Ellie Kendrick, Sofie Grabol
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a really slow burn of simmering horror. The acting is excellent, the effects are minimal, and the script is well-written. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we horror guys liked it quite a bit.
A woman dressed like an elf runs into a customer at a bookstore. The elf is late for work. She is the “Elf Princess Carla,” here to read a story to a bunch of children. There’s a mix-up with the books, and Maja ends up asking Leah to go out for a drink. Maja’s a former Danish actress who doesn’t work anymore except for occasional Elf gigs, and Leah is just staying here temporarily. They talk for hours and end up kissing. Things escalate, and Maja learns that Leah walks in her sleep.
Leah is going home to her mother tomorrow and has to leave soon. She changes her mind and decides to extend her stay with Maja. For quite a while, Leah ignores phone calls from her mother, but then she starts having weird seizures. Maja accidentally breaks Leah’s leg while trying to keep her from hurting herself during one. Maja volunteers to go back to London with Leah.
Leah’s mother, Chana, is there waiting for them. She’s a cranky, overbearing, Jewish mother stereotype. She’s an odd woman, and Maja is a little confused by all the over-the-top Jewish stuff. Chana gives Maja an amethyst necklace for good luck.
In the middle of the night, Maja wakes up to find a candle burning in their bedroom, so she blows it out. After she goes back to bed, it relights. In the morning, Chana wants to give Leah a massage and asks Maja to go for a walk or something.
Maja goes out and finds that she’s in a very Jewish neighborhood. She goes to a bookstore, and Lev, the man inside, says that her necklace is there to ward off demons. Meanwhile, Leah and her mother argue about soup. That night, the candle does its thing again, and Maja hears footsteps from somewhere.
Maja talks to Lev again, and he explains the Kabbalah to her. He talks about the Dybbuk, the tortured soul of someone who died. The Dybbuk possess the bodies of the living. The only way to get rid of one is to find out what it wants. It turns out that Lev is Leah’s uncle. Lev wants Chana to tell Maja the truth, but they argue about it in Yiddish, so Maja has no idea what they’re talking about.
Maja asks Chana to show her around town, and the shopkeepers treat Chana strangely. Lev comes by with a book for Maja. He says that Chana is a troubled woman in a lot of pain. He thinks that maybe Maja will be able to help Chana. Not long after, Maja and Chana argue about—pretty much everything. Chana finds the book Lev brought and she tells Maja to stay away from him.
Maja goes into Chana’s apartment and finds all sorts of “magical” things in there. Could the old woman be doing spells and witchcraft? She hides and watches Chana cook something very strange in the kitchen. There’s also a magical diagram that she recognizes; Lev told her it was the blackest of magic.
The next morning, Maja tells Leah everything, and she doesn’t believe it’s a problem. Leah argues, “She’s not well, and she needs me!” Leah suggests that Maja should move out. Maja watches Chana break Leah’s leg even worse in one of her “massages.”
Maja goes to Lev, and he says Chana is “very, very dangerous.” He also advises her to just go home. Instead, Maja doubles down on trying to fit in—until there are peanuts hidden in the chicken dinner that Chana prepared for them, which Maja is deathly allergic to. Chana says she doesn’t have any idea how the peanuts got in the food. Leah knows that’s not a normal part of the recipe, so it wasn’t an innocent accident, and is furious at her mother for trying to poison Maya. But we soon see that it was Maja who put the peanuts in her own food, a move to turn Leah against Chana. Leah gets frustrated and removes her own protective amulet.
Leah and Maja move to Maja’s father’s country home. We also get flashbacks to Chana telling a small person or child to “Please wake up.” We’ve seen that several times by this point in the story.
That night, Leah has another seizure. Maja goes to meet Lev out in the woods. Maja tells him that something is wrong with Leah. Chana is there with him. They admit to Maja that the seizures aren’t epilepsy; it started when she was seven. Leah—under the control of a Dybbuk, killed a little girl. This evil one has possessed Leah for many years. They never told Leah about it.
Meanwhile, an old woman goes to talk to Leah about her missing cat. Maja rushes home to find that Leah has combed her hair to a bald spot and just looks terrible. Maja finds the dead cat-woman’s body upstairs and Leah hides from her.
Lev comes in and “freezes” Leah. He says that Leah left home for too long, away from everyone and everything that kept her safe. He’s got a whole squad of devout men to help. Chana says that Leah had no memory of the Dybbuk, and she was always happy when it didn’t have her under its control. If she’d been told about it, it would have ruined her personality and happiness, so they tamed it under control and kept it from her.
Lev tells Leah, “This is our last resort. We have to prepare a Soul Devourer.” They’ve never tried this black magic ritual before. Once the Soul Devourer comes, it won’t leave until it gets one, so this is very dangerous. They start the ritual and wake Leah up. Lev insists that the demon tell him who he is and what he wants.
The demon gloats that it has won either way and bails on them – it knows the Soul Devourer is going to kill Leah in the circle. And if Leah leaves the circle empty of a sacrifice, it will kill them all. Chana lifts Leah out of the circle and switches places with her. Chana just switches off like a light bulb; she’s dead.
Leah and Maja pack up Leah’s stuff and get ready to leave town. As Maja packs, we see that she has some of Chana’s protection things in her bag… just in case.
It starts out as a romantic fish-out-of-water story with Maja trying to fit in with a Jewish household, but things soon devolve into “The Exorcist.”
It’s super slow, and I was starting to wonder if it was going anywhere, but it eventually did. The acting here is really good all around, the special effects are minimal at best, but it’s all pretty interesting by the time you get to the end.
Short Film: Aria (2023)
• Directed by Bruce Tetsuya
• Written by Bruce Tetsuya
• Stars Em Marie Davenport, Bess Blackburn
• Run Time: 17:43
• Watch it at:
Aria gets a call about her father’s cremation; he’s recently died, and she’s going through his stuff at home. He’s left some creepy drawings in his cabin. After a bit, she hears someone whispering her name.
She goes outside for a walk in the woods. She comes back afterward and continues sorting. Eva comes in to help. Both girls talk about how they didn’t really know their father very well.
Both girls feel something strange here. Something other than their father…
This one’s got some great scenery and cinematography. The lighting is also well done—the cabin and the woods are both really dark, but you can still see everything.
It’s a coming-to-terms-with-grief story, but there’s more to it than that. I’m not exactly sure I understand it completely, but it sure looks good!
Friday the 13th A New Beginning (1985)
• Directed by Danny Steinmann
• Written by Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
• Stars Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Anthony Barrile
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It starts with young Tommy from the previous movie. Then some years jump, and traumatized Tommy is now a young man. Jason is back in this one, despite being clearly killed, with a fresh batch of victims he slashes his way through. How is that possible? All is explained. Sort of. It's a decent continuation of the series.
We open on Tommy from the previous film walking through the woods in a rainstorm. He comes to the grave of Jason Voorhees. Some guys with shovels show up and start digging as Tommy watches from the trees. It doesn’t take long before they open the coffin and die by Jason’s machete. Jason stands up, mask and all, and looks right at Tommy before heading his way… Jason raises his machete as Tommy stands there screaming— Tommy wakes up, all grown up. He was dreaming about his real childhood encounter with Jason. He’s in a car heading to a mental facility. Credits roll.
Pam, the assistant director, comes out to greet Tommy. He meets Dr. Matt, the psychiatrist at Pinehurst. It’s a camp where young patients live together with some freedom, getting the hang of living normal lives. Tommy is here to prepare himself for a new life in the outside world. He’s been messed up ever since he killed Jason when he was twelve, and he’s been on medication since then. Tommy meets Reggie, who plays a prank on him, then they find out who’s scariest. Tommy still has his collection of monster masks from the previous film.
A police car drives up, sirens blaring. The sheriff talks to Matt about complaining neighbors. Two of the kids were having sex in the neighbor’s barn. Ethel, the neighbor, rides up on her motorcycle, and she throws a tantrum about the trespassing.
Fat kid Joey comes out of the house and talks to two girls working on laundry. He gets chocolate on their clean stuff, and they shoo him away. So instead, he goes over and pesters Vic, who’s angrily chopping wood. Vic is not in a social mood and kills Joey with the ax. Roy, the ambulance attendant, looks visibly upset at the condition of Joey’s body.
Pete and Vinny’s car breaks down not far from Pinehurst. Vinny gets stabbed in the mouth with a lit road flare, and Pete gets his throat cut.
Tommy wakes up after having more Jason-based nightmares. The breakfast table is unusually quiet since one of the kids was killed. Eddie jumps out wearing a mask, and Tommy gives him a thorough pounding.
Crazy Ethel hires a wandering vagrant to clean her chicken coops. The police start investigating the two dead kids on the road. Billy goes to the diner to pick up Lana for their date. He gets an ax to the head, and she gets it in the belly. The next morning, Tommy hallucinates seeing Jason. Or is it a hallucination?
The mayor yells at the sheriff, who says he knows who the killer is: Jason Voorhees. The mayor insists that Jason was cremated to ashes, so it couldn’t be him.
Tina and Eddie, the sex-crazed teens from yesterday, run off into the woods for more playtime. Someone is watching from the bushes—it’s the vagrant worker, who is soon stabbed to death. She gets the hedge trimmers while he gets a crushing headache.
Matt asks Pam to take Tommy along so that Reggie can stay with his brother in town. Reggie’s brother Demon and his girlfriend Anita seem to live in his van at the trailer park. Ethel’s crazy son Junior almost runs over Tommy on the road. Tommy’s quiet; he lets his fists do the talking.
Demon has some bad enchiladas and spends a lot of time in the outhouse. The screaming with that doesn’t compare to what happens next.
Pam and Reggie return to the compound, and Matt and Gramps have gone out looking for Tina and Eddie; Tommy hasn’t come back yet either. Elsewhere, Junior loses his head and Ethel gets stewed.
Duke and Robin are killed in their rooms, as is Violet. Reggie goes upstairs to look for Tommy and finds all the bodies. Pam is right behind him, and she sees them too. Suddenly Jason breaks in the door, and we see his hockey mask and machete for the first time. They run to the road and find the ambulance there, with the dead driver inside. Pam finds Matt in the woods, nailed to a tree; Gramps’s corpse comes flying in through a window. She runs back outside.
Jason catches up to Pam and gets ready to hack her, but Reggie runs over him with a tractor. Of course, Jason gets back up and continues the chase, but we see that he’s bleeding. Pam comes after Jason with a chainsaw—until the motor stops.
Tommy returns and has a face-off with Jason. He thinks it’s a hallucination until he gets slashed, but then he stabs Jason in the leg. They all climb up to the balcony in the barn. Jason and Pam do a little dance in front of the open window until Jason falls out and is impaled on some kind of spiky machine. Yep, he’s really dead this time. But wait, is that a latex mask on him that is split open showing he was someone in disguise? Yes. He would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky kids.
Everyone goes to the hospital. The sheriff comes out to talk to Pam. Joey, the kid who was axed to death early in the film, was the son of Roy, the ambulance attendant. When Joey was killed, Roy snapped and decided to get revenge on everyone and used “the Jason thing” to cover up his murders.
Pam goes to see Tommy, but he stabs her with a machete—no, that was a dream. Tommy wakes up that night in the hospital and sees Jason in his room, but when Jason fades away, Tommy takes a hockey mask out of his drawer, puts it on, and kills Pam for real. There’s a new Jason in town.
This is the first time in the entire franchise that anyone said the name “Jason Voorhees” in full. We never see Jason or his hockey mask except for Tommy’s hallucinations until the final battle. The killer could literally have been anyone! It’s down to the last fifteen minutes before we see that Jason is the killer, in his mask and everything!
It’s an OK continuation, more of the same, but this time, it’s not actually Jason in the mask, which is an interesting turn, but also kind of a cheat.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
• Directed by Herk Harvey
• Written by John Clifford, Herk Harvey
• Stars Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 18 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a slow and ominous movie, giving the viewer an unsettled feeling even when seemingly normal things are happening. What’s really happening finally becomes clear. We’d call it a classic that all horror fans should give a try.
A car full of girls gets ready to drag race against a car full of guys. The cars are old; the road is older. There’s a sign that says the road is under construction. They get neck and neck as they cross the old bridge, but the girls’ car goes over the edge and sinks beneath the river. Credits roll.
The sheriff and his men drag the river. After three hours, they spot one of the girls climbing out of the water. It’s Mary Henry. She doesn’t remember what happened to the other girls.
Mary plays the pipe organ at an organ factory. The boss says Mary will be a fine organist at her new job at the church. It doesn’t pay much, but it’s a start. She says she’s never coming back to this town. It’s only been three days since the accident, and the man thinks she’s behaving strangely.
Mary gets into her car and leaves town for Utah, of all places. There’s nothing on the radio, and she wants to drive all night. She thinks she sees a man at the car window, but that’s impossible. She then sees him in the road and runs off the embankment. Surprisingly, she gets right back on the road and keeps on going
She sees some weird buildings, and the man at the gas station tells her that it’s an old bathhouse that they’ve turned into a carnival. She talks to her new landlady, Mrs. Thompson. Her housemate is Mr. Linden across the hall. The next morning, she goes to the church where she’s going to be the new organist. Mary tells the minister that she doesn’t particularly want to socialize with the church ladies. He’s kind of sour on that, but when he hears her play, he’s so pleased that he’s okay with her being antisocial.
The old minister has to make his rounds, and he invites Mary along. They’re going right past that strange pavilion she saw on the road, and she wants to check it out.
It’s been deserted for a long time now, and the Minster says it’s not safe inside. They go home, and she meets Mr. Linden, who asks her out to dinner. She turns him down, but he doesn’t go away easily. Mary sees that same strange man who she’s seen a few times before. Mrs. Thomas comes up and says there’s no other man in the place other than Linden. The old lady is pretty jumpy herself and gets a little spooked.
That night, Mary sees the old carnival from a long distance off. In the morning, Mr. Linden knocks at the door, making a pain of himself again. He brings coffee though, and she’s OK with that first thing in the morning. When he finally leaves, she’s happy; it’s gonna be a good day!
Mary goes shopping for a new dress and when she comes out of the dressing room, no one can see or hear her. She goes out onto the street, and she doesn’t hear anything, either. After a while, everything returns to normal. She sees the strange man again and ends up seeing Dr. Samuels who she tells the whole story to. He thinks the whole thing is her reaction to nearly dying less than a week ago.
For some reason, Mary is drawn to the old, abandoned carnival outside of town. She wanders around among the attractions there. The old place is right next to the Great Salt Lake. She doesn’t see anything too special and goes home.
She practices her organ music at the church and then dreams of seeing the scary man and others rising up out of the water of the lake and coming for her. She imagines the carnival being crowded with ghosts, but the strange man is the only one who notices her. Then the minister comes over and tells her that the music she was playing was “profane” and fires her on the spot.
When she leaves the church, she’s really unhappy, but Mr. Linden is there waiting to pick her up for her date. She’s not a fun companion. She doesn’t drink, dance, or smile, much to Linden’s annoyance. He gets drunk and mean. “Why don’t you thaw out?” She sees the scary man again, and Linden decides she’s “Off her rocker” and abandons her.
The landlady calls Dr. Samuels and says she wants Mary to move out; she’s just too weird. Mary loads her stuff into her car and leaves. Her car soon breaks down, so she goes to a service station. The mechanic puts her car up on the rack, and she takes a nap.
Everything goes silent except for the footsteps of the strange man, who lowers her car back down. She runs away, down the street in the city. She goes to the bus station, but no one there can hear her again. She hears the announcer call out that the eastbound bus is now boarding. Everyone on the bus looks like the strange man—ghouls or zombies or something.
“I don’t belong in the world. Something separates me from other people.” She spills her story to the doctor, but when he turns around, it’s—you know who. The scary man. She wakes up back in the garage; her car is fixed.
She drives back out to the old carnival one more time. She watches as more dead people rise out of the water and dance. A woman starts to dance with the scary man, and she starts to have coloring similar to his. Mary screams and runs, and they all pursue her down under the boardwalk. They eventually close in on her.
The sheriff, minister, and some others follow Mary’s footprints, which end abruptly. They just… vanish.
Back at the river from the opening sequence, the men tow out the girls’ car and find all three bodies inside, including Mary, who’s been dead for days…
Director George A. Romero noted this film was the inspiration for “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). There are a lot of similarities in tone and style to that. It’s slow and quiet, and even the zombie makeup is similar. You never quite know what’s going on, although we had suspicions from fairly early into the story.
The ending was fairly obvious, but maybe that was due to all the times this film has been copied and all the influences it has had on the genre— as well as in stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” When it was new, it was probably a real surprise ending.
Carnival of Souls (1998)
• Directed by Adam Grossman
• Written by John Clifford, Adam Grossman
• Stars Bobbie Phillis, Shawnee Smith, Larry Miller
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This has the same framework as the original, but there are some substantial changes. And they aren’t an improvement. The original should be considered a classic. This one, not so much at all. It’s just okay at best.
We watch underwater bubbles as the credits roll.
Young Alex goes looking for her mother inside the beach resort. She opens a door and watches Louis punch her mother. When she’s down on the ground, he rapes her; he knows Sandra is watching. He snaps her mother’s neck.
Years later, adult Alex and her sister Sandra visit their mother’s grave. Later, Alex finds a big red balloon tied to her car door. Louis is in the back seat, and he grabs her and sticks a pistol in her mouth. “We’re going to a party; it is the anniversary of your mother’s death.” He has her drive out to the pier for something he has in mind, but she floors it on purpose, running off the dock and into the ocean….
Alex wakes up under the water in the bathtub; she must have fallen asleep. She gets dressed and goes to work; she’s a bartender. Sandra comes in and asks if she had that nightmare again. After closing time, Alex sees another one of those red balloons, but when she looks again, it’s gone.
The basement at the bar floods, so she goes to a place to buy a new pump. The creepy old lady who runs the place doesn’t recognize Alex, even though she’s a local. She thought they closed down the Old Mermaid Bar, but Alex says no, not yet.
Alex drives her old antique truck to the automatic car wash place. It’s dark and scary inside, with thunderstorm sounds. She sees a strange man outside wiping her window; he grows a long tongue and licks her car. Suddenly, the truck starts to fill with water, and she can’t get out. She sees monsters outside, so maybe getting out isn’t a good idea either. The truck fills up entirely with water… Then Alex climbs up onto the pier out of the ocean after her car went in.
Suddenly, Alex is in a junkyard. She drives to the same pier in bright daylight. She flashes back to when she was little and went there when it was a carnival. Louis the clown gave her a red balloon. Her mother Elaine comes by and meets Louis; we know how that worked out. She invites him to the bar for a drink sometime.
Back at the pier, it’s dark again, and she meets Michael, the security guy for the old carnival. Sid, the maintenance man at the bar says he can’t find where that leak is coming from. She goes to wash her face in the sink and Louis holds her head in the sink. When she looks up, Sandra is there.
Alex talks to a detective about Louis, who does a check. Louis was a known pedophile and was sentenced to life in prison. It was Alex’s testimony that put him away. He was paroled two years ago. The detective shows her photos of Louis’s corpse—he was murdered not long after being released from prison. We flashback to Louis putting clown makeup on Alex as a girl. Elaine takes Sandra to the doctor, leaving Alex alone with him.
Alex and Sandra argue about whether or not to sell the Old Mermaid. That night, she goes back to the carnival that is now, suddenly, back in business and open. Except that all the people there look like zombies. A bunch of people yell, “Get out of here; you’re not ready yet” and chase her back to her car. Then she wakes up—just a dream.
More and more, she sees strange demonic creatures. We stop all the action so that Sandra can sing a song for the bar patrons. Michael is there, and he says she’s very good (she’s actually not, but an attempt was made).
Alex calls Dr. Goldstein, her psychiatrist, but he can’t fit her in. The receptionist treats her strangely. She tells him her problem, and he seems normal. She talks to him about the accident five months ago, but he acts like he never heard about it before. He says he’s never met her before today.
She gets a vision of Louis, and he says that she’s always known where to find him. She goes on a creepy nighttime boat ride with Michael. He tells her it’s time to let go and move on, but she says she’s not ready. Then they tear each other’s clothes off and have sex. Halfway through, he becomes a moldy, dead version of Louis.
Alex wanders around the creepy carnival and sees strange things. Then everyone there is dead again. She has yet another dream sequence and then goes outside to find her car. She flashes back to all the various characters telling her to let go in one way or another. She starts the car and drives off the end of the pier again.
The tow truck pulls Alex’s car out of the water at the end of the pier. Sandra wakes up in the morning and looks for Alex at the bar. The cops look in the car they pulled up and find both bodies—Alex and Louis, inside.
Sandra gets a phone call and hears nothing but carnival noises.
This has a few similar scenes to the original and the basic story, but the plot is almost completely different. It’s too slow, with the same weird visions over and over. The addition of the rapist pedophile clown adds a more personal touch to the creepiness, but the first film didn’t need that, and neither did this one. There’s just too much flashing around between dreams, reality, flashbacks, and nonsense. The extended dream sequence goes on for far too long, and there are far too many of them.
It’s not the worst film of all time, but it is pretty bad.
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