0 24 2017

‘Wheels of Tragedy’: Death on the Highways in Carnival of Souls (1962) and the Highway Safety Film

Bernice M. Murphy


This article argues that Carnival of Souls (1962), is a foundational text in the ‘Highway Horror’ sub- genre. It directly confronts one of the most pervasive taboos in modern American life: the horrific death toll associated with mass automobility. In Herk Harvey’s cult film, the protagonist is killed but finds herself unwilling to accept her fate. As in the many similar films that followed, the highway becomes a purgatorial space between life and death. The blindness of the protagonists is linked to society’s collective willingness to overlook (or tolerate) the devastating frequency of the fatal car crash. The article also discusses the highway safety films of the 1950s and 60s. 

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ISSN 1749-9771