Prepare For A Scare!
Director Herk Harvey, who also stars as the ghoulish specter, "The Man." Janus Films

Prepare For A Scare!

Driving alone down an empty road at night, surrounded by desolate plains of uninhibited nature, the lingering nightmare might be getting a flat, but in American director Herk Harvey's 1962 horror film "Carnival of Souls," screening outdoors in service of Halloween anticipation on Thursday night, Oct., 26 behind the Kent Memorial Library in Kent, Conn., a busted tire would be a relief. Instead, physiologically tortured Mary (Candace Hilligoss), driving to start a new life in Salt Lake City, Utah, after a tragic incident, is haunted not just by her own survivor's remorse but by a ghoulish face man, a vision of the uncanny whose chalky mask of flesh and sleepless eyes stare into her guilty soul. He glowers in the window's reflection; he glares motionless in the open road.  

Played by Herk Harvey himself, the spectral image of death is just one of the spine-chilling images conjured in this shoe-string budget black-and-white film, shot guerrilla style and funded by local businesses in Salt Lake City and Harvey's hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. Loosely based on the short story and perennial high school English assignment, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," by American Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce, known for both his horror fiction and satirical writing, the script for "Carnival of Souls" penned by Harvey's friend John Clifford employs a similar "Twilight Zone" like twist. 

Despite the small production scale, Harvey's murky footage of gothic gloom graying over the American Plains has left a lasting cultural impression. In 2017, young American indie folk singer Phoebe Bridgers released a music video for her romantic ballad "Smoke Signals" based around the recognizable ballroom scene in "Carnival of Souls." Her production didn't stray too far from the film's small-scale roots. "Instead of random dead dudes, it's all my friends," she told NPR. "I paid them in pizza. We shot it at the Masonic Hall in Highland Park, which is the coolest place ever."

The outdoor screening begins at 7 p.m. Blankets and coats are encouraged.

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