Ladies of Horror May-hem: Mary Henry


And finally, a regular here at the lair surfaces!

I have raved about the wonder that is Carnival of Souls for quite some time now, and yet I continue to hear it described by fellow horror hounds as “the best movie never seen.” As a full-on fan of this movie, I feel that it’s my duty to continue to sing its praises and encourage as many people as possible to see it.

That being said, I almost didn’t include Mary Henry as a possible Lady of Horror May-hem. She spends a large portion of the movie being reactive rather than proactive. However, because I’m a generous soul and because I really do love this movie so much, I allowed her to attend. After all, she is the one who sets into motion the entirety of this story thanks to her actions at the beginning. That counts! Also, she does it all by drag-racing a carload of hot-rodders. Drag-racing grrls, FTW.

Mary, as portrayed by Candace Hilligoss, also stands as the first bad-ass lady to go up against the modern cinema’s take on zombies (no, they aren’t really zombies…then again, most “zombies” we see in movies aren’t zombies either…they’re simply plays on this prototype). She stands at the pinnacle, even above George Romero’s Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. Romero even states that director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford inspired his perennial zombie favorites.

Carnival of Souls is not your typical horror. It’s not burdened by special effects that would have aged in noticeably awkward ways. It’s streamlined and stunning, a firm and fit tale presented in the most delicious black and white shots imaginable. Harvey knew how to work that monochromatic palette. And Hilligoss’s portrayal of Mary’s downward spiral into terrified confusion is such that even when she tipples over into campiness, you never feel like she’s insincere. Just really overwhelmed by all that’s happening around her.

Another aspect that marks Mary as unique among early horror movie heroines is her unexpected hardened edge, especially regarding her take on religion. One assumes that a woman who has made church organist her profession would have a profound respect for the religion that employs her. Not so, Bob. She’s just in it for the Benjamins. In fact, she really doesn’t give much of a damn for anything other than her work and being left alone. Is this a side effect of the events of the movie, or is this her true personality? Regardless, it’s who we meet, who we observe, and who we ultimately follow to that penultimate dance that keeps luring her closer and closer as the dusk descends upon the carnival.

Doctober 30: Night of the Living Crushers

“They’re coming to get you, Beverly…”

That would have been an interesting take on the whole Night of the Living Dead story, eh? Or what if both Crushers turned into brain-slurping zombies? We’ve already witnessed Dr. Crusher consuming Commander Riker’s brain through a straw, so obviously she’s got a bit of those dirty, dirty zombie cravings going on inside. And Wesley is her son…it’s just a matter of time before genetics caught up with him…

Of course, there already is an unofficial “Trek” take on this movie, thanks to Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of Romero’s original zombie tale. The remake stars Tony Todd, most famous to Trek fans as Worf’s brother Kurn (as well as famous to horror movie fans as the Candyman himself), and Patricia Tallman who…wait for it, denizens…was Gates McFadden’s stunt double. Remember the scene in Generations when Data pushes Dr. Crusher off the side of the sailing ship on the holodeck? That was Patricia Tallman going over the side. She was also McFadden’s double during the series run. She also doubled Nana Visitor, Michelle Forbes, Gwynyth Walsh, Louise Fletcher…let’s just say she doubled a lot of the Trek actresses. She also appeared as various characters throughout the run of TNG, DS9, and Voyager.

I very rarely say nice things about remakes, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Savini’s NOTLD remake, mostly for the Trek influence but also because it’s a gooey, fun take on Romero’s original. Is it better in color than in black and white? That’s up for debate, I suppose. Is it better with Candyman and the Trek Stunt Actress Supreme? Uh. Yeah.

Oh, and because I know you want to see this, here’s what the official Night of the Living Crushers T-shirt design would look like. You know, this is the second Doctober posting that I wouldn’t mind seeing on a T-shirt…