RiffTrax Live: Carnival of Souls
Live Performances: October 27th and 31st, 2016
RiffTrax Live returns once again for another holiday special, and Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett have given us a spooooooky good time with some shorts and a cult classic.
Unfortunately I forget the full names of the shorts that were done before the film. The first one was an educational(?) short on how to bathe yourself starring a "dirty witch" who used her powers to get other people filthy. You know, just like Hocus Pocus. The second was another short on using grass, this time to make terrifying masks. I was starting to wonder if these videos were made by parents who didn't want to spend money on their children. "Go outside kids. I don't care what you do, play with grass for all I care."
What followed then was the riffing of the 1962 cult classic B-horror movie, Carnival of Souls. This was the only full-length film directed by Herk Harvey, who went on to direct smaller educational videos like "Shake Hands With Danger" which was riffed during the 10th Anniversary Reunion Special. The RiffTrax Live version of Carnival of Souls was remastered with color, which was surprisingly well done.
When they had announced this show during Mothra in August, I overheard some people saying that they were surprised they would do a good movie. I was unaware that Carnival of Souls was considered a horror movie classic, and has been lauded by critics such as Roger Ebert. I have to admit that I found a lot of the scenes pretty creepy, and the use of an abandoned amusement park/carnival set in the middle of Utah actually creates an appropriately chilling atmosphere. However, RiffTrax was right to choose it as its next target: it really isn't a good movie. It's boring, uneventful, and confusing, and ends with a shocking reveal that makes you wonder what the point of it all was.
I felt that the energy and jokes from the RiffTrax team were much better than their previous Mothra show. The movie had long stretches of silence where nothing really happened that gave them a lot of room to work in jokes and humorous observations. They even riffed each other when one of their jokes fell flat. One of them made a reference to Strega Nona, a series of children's books that I remember only because my mother was a huge fan of the author. When the joke was received with absolute silence, they successfully mocked it throughout the rest of the movie.
There is one more showing of Carnival of Souls coming up (on Halloween!). They also announced that they'll be doing a winter RiffTrax double-feature in December, replaying their 2009 live shorts with Weird Al and their 2013 showing of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (which is a must-see). I look forward to going to these every time they're announced, and I highly recommend checking them out if they're playing near you. In the meantime, keep circulating the tapes!