Being a wuss, I took along a cool, unflappable companion to this 1962 B-grade horror which screens with live music, live dialogue and live sound effects.

But even her nerves of steel failed, and at one point we clutched each other and screamed like teenagers.

The Herk Harvey movie itself is not particularly scary, being more a surreal, suggestive take on small-town seediness (there's a great close up of a creepy neighbour's beady eye).

Even I can watch possessed church organists and a zombie chase through beautifully shot chequered light and shade without flinching. But after an unexpected crack of live drums, we were on edge for the rest of the film.

Admirably, Auckland composer Leon Radojkovic has resisted the temptation to steal the show with distracting, self-involved melodies. Instead, his new commissioned score is committed to supporting the onscreen storytelling.

He uses horror convention as a springboard - high-tension violin phrases and eerie fairground oom-pa-pa - and jumps to droning double bass, loud electric guitar, and cello solos of epic sadness.

The enveloping result - in our case at least - was embarrassingly effective.

Director Oliver Driver has created an amusing live prologue, in which the musicians drink booze out of mugs and the voice actors, in 1960s period costume, establish a luvvie hierarchy by commanding "tea, darling!" from young Charlie McDermott.

Once the film starts, who voices which character can surprise; Bronwyn Bradley does a more convincing, less fruity young man than Cameron Rhodes. Chelsea Preston Crayford's lengthy, sometimes silent stay at the microphone, channelling her onscreen doppelganger, keeps the audience apprehensive.

Shut away in his little booth, "lonely" Foley sound effects artist Gareth van Neikerk gives an excellent exhibition of a past craft, coinciding his own footsteps, key jiggling and branch waving with those on screen.

We saw this at the Mercury Theatre, and its shabby chic and small size were perfect.

The Civic will also have a fitting aesthetic, but get as close to the stage as you can, to watch the live performers, as well as the undead ones on screen. Exhilarating.

Auckland Arts Festival
What: Live Live Cinema: Carnival of Souls.

Where: The Civic.

When: March 20.