Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls

Directed by Bren O’Callaghan
Script adapted by Len Horsey
Music and sound design by Euan Rodger
Produced by Sally Folkard

Featuring the voice of Baby Dee.

A new, unique adaptation of director Herk Harvey’s 1962 experimental feature film and horror oddity, cited as a key influence upon the work of George A Romero and David Lynch. Inspired by classic adventure radio serials and sensory deprivation methods, Carnival of Souls has been stripped and chiselled to become an audio-only experience inside a darkened cinema – with a twist.

Commissioned by the Film Hub North West Central with an advisory group of blind and partially sighted audience members, the broadcast is relayed across wireless headsets incorporating binaural audio: a technique that creates the effect of the action happening to and around the body of the listener in the same space, forming an intimate sense of proximity. From approaching footsteps to whispered breath, it will seem as though you are part of the unfolding drama.

Mary Henry (Amanda Hennessy) is the sole survivor of a horrific car accident. She begins a new life in a sleepy Utah town, the site of a derelict carnival and dancehall.  Haunted by the sight and  songs of an enigmatic figure that slips inside her dreams (Baby Dee), Mary finds herself drawn to the ruins of the former pleasure ground… about which the local Mormon congregation know more than they choose to reveal.

Featuring the voices of Amanda Hennessy and Baby Dee: performance artist and founding musician with Antony & The Johnsons.  With thanks to Matthew Irvine, MFA for copyright permission to adapt from original feature.

Carnival of Souls is a binaural, ‘cinema in the dark’ experience that removes primary visual stimuli to focus instead upon the dual physiological and psychological effects of sound. It is inspired by the legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and is also conceived as a response to the practical but often dull delivery of audio description for blind and sight-impaired audiences.

Seated in a traditional cinema space and equipped with wireless headphones, the audience will be plunged into blackout for the duration of a purposely-adapted tale centered upon the 1962 experimental horror of the same name, cited as an important influence upon the films of David Lynch and George A. Romero. Carnival of Souls includes an original score, atmospheric field recording, soundscape, audio effects and experimental narration.

Binaural audio is a specialised method of recording sound that creates a 3-D sensation for the listener of being physically present at the point of origin, and can also be described as a form of audio ventriloquism. Stereo sound is perceived by the listener as taking place ‘inside’ the head, as if a line were drawn between left and right ears. Binaural sound is discerned ‘outside’ the head, projected into physical space, with additional properties of direction, distance and range. The result is a heightened, personalised intimacy, capable of triggering autonomous sensory meridian response – a physical, reflexive reaction, ranging from goosebumps to shivers, increased heart rate and twitching.

Director Bren O’Callaghan, Producer Sally Folkard, Scriptwriter Len Horsey and Composer Euan Rodger are working in consultation with the support of Chris Pike at BBC Research and Development with additional assistance from disability access specialists Full Circle Arts. Commissioned and led by Film Hub North West Central, with the intention to create an open-source toolkit of notes, blog posts, diaries, comments upon technical findings and feedback from a supplementary focus group of blind and sight-impaired audience members so that others might also learn from and build upon the experience.

Image: Lee Baxter

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