31 Days of Horror: Day 3- Carnival of Souls

Day 3, kiddies, and up today is Carnival of Souls, the 1998 remake of the 1962 Herk Harvey film. Alex Grant (Bobbie Phillips) sees her mother murdered when she was eleven years old by carnival clown Louis Seagram (Larry Miller). 20 years later, Alex still owns the Mermaid Inn, the bar her mother used to run. Helping Alex out is her younger sister, Sandra (Shawnee Smith). While remembering her mother on the anniversary of her death, Alex is attacked in her car by Louis, who has now been left out of jail. She drives her car off a pier, and begins having nightmarish visions and dreams of Louis and the carnival from 20 years earlier. She soon can’t tell what’s real or imagined.

While the story here certainly holds plenty of possibilities, the acting and directing by Adam Grossman (Sometimes They Come Back…Again) weighs the movie down. Phillips (Renaissance) comes off pretty flat and unconvincing, and Smith (Saw II) has little to do. Miller (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) looks like he’s having a little bit of fun in the villain role, but never comes across as very scary, menacing, or even creepy. More effective is some of the hallucinatory imagery, which is reminiscent of the creatures in Adrian Lyne’s terrific twisted 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder. The film does keep you off balance at times, wondering along with Alex as to what is real and what is a dream sequence. It’s too bad the delivery made it more laughable than frightening, and the ending just has you shaking your head. At least at 86 minutes is not a big chunk out of your life. It seems they hoped to get the mileage out of the “Wes Craven Presents” above the title on the DVD cover (he did serve as executive producer). Available on DVD. 4/10 stars