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Larry Littany Litt


"Carnival of Souls"


"Carnival of Souls"
By Jack Feldstein with Ari Figueroa aka Pussy Willow
Directed by Jack Feldstein
Script editing by Ari Figueroa aka Pussy Willow and Annemarie Hagenaars
Neon Animation by Jack Feldstein
Chain Theater, New York Fringe Festival
Reviewed Nov. 1 2019 by Larry Littany Litt

Imagine movie night karaoke at your favorite pub. Playwright-animator Jack Feldstein has brought of a copy of original 1962 version of “Carnival of Souls” for everyone’s pleasure. The film is a striking example of low budget creativity about the purgatory period between death and assignment to one’s final peaceful or tortured last destination.

In this doctored up version Feldstein has colored the “Carnival of Souls” dvd with his proprietary light-magic filtered neonization process to give the context an even eerier, unearthly look and feel. It’s visually both film noir and psychedelic at once, giving me the feeling of being behind the action in some beautifully colored mirrored just out of reach world.

Like all karaoke there has to be a live performer who puts the human element into the media. In this case it’s the glamorous Ari Figueroa aka Pussy Willow. She inserts her confident husky voice into the lines spoken by the film’s 20-something star, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligloss). Mary is the sole survivor of a horrendous car accident that killed two other young women. Ari’s take on Mary is that she’s an abused woman who is disrespected by all the men she meets along her journey. Ari is funny tossing off witty asides to the surreal plot and formulaic characters. Gender humor and fun anachronisms abound. This classic film is placed in its time for a modern generation who may be angered and rightfully distressed by its over-the-top male chauvinism and Mary’s yielding acquiescence.

Many years ago when I first saw “Carnival of Souls” I was impressed and inspired by its metaphysics. For me it's an essay on belief in a post-mortem afterlife and the immortality of the soul. Mary Henry is recklessly racing through her own three days of worldly change in purgatory waiting to disappear from this mortal plane. These concepts become clearly evident in the low budget film and its provocative denial of religious rites for Mary.

I would have liked Ari Figueroa to at least acknowledge the question of an afterlife. Then again movie night karaoke is supposed to be fun, not a deeply thoughtful experience.


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