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Like a relative that gives you a bad gift, Soul Survivors has its heart in
the right place but trips up with a bad execution. Stephen Carpenter's
writing/directing effort borrows freely from other, better films, such as
Jacob's Ladder and Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). For those who haven't
seen either of these films, I won't give the premise away; suffice to say
it's not nearly as well handled here than in those two superior
Melissa Sagemiller stars as Cassie, about to go away to college. Her current boyfriend Sean (Ben Affleck) and ex-boyfriend Matt (Wes Bentley), both friends, and Annabel (acerbic Eliza Dushku) are in a car accident after being pursued by two killers (?) in transparent masks. She survives the wreck, but while attending college has visions of the hospital ordeal and dead people reappear and disappear, leaving her in a state of total confusion: who is dead? Who's alive? What's real?
Soul Survivors has the look of a bad been-there, done-that, gore-filled, blood-splattered, body-stacking teen exploitation flick. True, it has its share of killer-stalking-the-victim scenes (plentiful, repetitive, and mind-numbing), but at least it attempts to build suspense through ideas rather than cliches, unfortunately rather unsuccessfully. It breeds confusion much more often than cohesion, as the story becomes jumbled, messy and incoherent near key points of the mystery (predictable as it is.)
Horror fans who pick up a copy will have no idea they are in for a film that is more concerned with building an uneasy facade of reality than delivering a body count. Credit goes to Carpenter for attempting to create something beyond a derivative teen horror flick; too bad he's created a derivative psychological thriller. Sagemiller also deserves kudos for showing strength in the central performance, actually developing her character and evoking some sense of emotion as the unraveling Cassie. It's great the filmmakers try something different, but the film ends up a mixed bag and failed experiment.
4 out of 10
Soul Survivors reminded me a lot of Jacob's Ladder, but it doesn't have the foreboding mood or the suspense of the latter. A girl gets in a car accident and suffers a brain hemorrhage of sorts, which results in her going through some nightmarish experiences. Is she dead? Is she alive? We don't know until the end, and despite some artistic visual flourishes, Soul Survivors never seems to really take off. It doesn't generate any real suspense or give us any real scares. But it is not a total failure, either. Director Steve Carpenter has given us a film that seems to play the notes of psychological horror, but doesn't quite manage to play its music.
I loved the concept of the film, and the script is probably a fantastic
read. But I have not read it, so I will not be so fatuous to cast praise or
The main flaw in this film is the ease with which it confuses people. From reading reviews many people seem totally clueless as to what the film is about.
The journey that Cassie takes from denial with subconscious guilt to acceptance and despair is well thought out and interesting. Unfortunately there is a lot of rubbish thrown in to contribute to Cassie's confused state of mind. This only serves to confuse the viewer. And these are major plot red herrings too. Like thinking this is a horror film. If you are a sharp cookie and can hold multiple thoughts in parallel you will be able to decipher the film and get something from it... most likely you will like it. If you do not concentrate however, you will drown in a sea of confusion and feel you have just wasted and hour and a half.
Oh, and the first ending was sufficient... what that last bit was supposed to achieve I have no idea, but after a tough mental challenge the last thing you need is a tacked on, serves no useful purpose, post shoot, I'm gonna make you think this film is stupid, ending. Have they any idea how difficult it is to explain to a friend what the film is actually about and how they have completely missed the plot?
Final Score: 1.8 (out of 10)
After seeing 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' I must have been on a big Eliza Dushku kick when I rented this movie. 'Soul Survivors' is a junk "psychological thriller" dressed up like a trashy teen slasher flick - even to the point of having a masked killer stalk a cast of young up-and-comers like Dushku, Wes Bentley (American Beauty), Casey Affleck (Drowning Mona) and likable star Melissa Sagemiller. Luke Wilson is also in there, ridiculously miscast as a priest. The movie, the brainchild of writer/director Stephen Carpenter, seems like a mutant offspring of 'Open Your Eyes' or 'Vanilla Sky' and movies where a character (and the audience) is caught in a world of dillusion caused by an accident/death. The movie keeps churning out perplexing images and leaves us in a state of confusion the entire running time until this alternate reality is finally resolved. I don't think these movies are that entertaining- by their very nature- to begin with, but 'SS' is rock-bottom cheap trash cinema any way you slice it. The visuals, the script, the acting and the attempt at any originality all are throwaway afterthoughts to movies like this. Plus, it's PG-13 so it doesn't even deliver the gore or T&A to sustain it as a guilty pleasure (even the unrated version is tame). I had heard that the movie contained some "hot" shower scene between Dushku & Sagemiller. As the movie fell apart in front of me and all other entertainment seemed to be lost I found myself waiting patiently for the shower scene - at least I would get something out of this. Then it comes: the two girls get paint on their shirts, they jump in the shower fully clothed and scrub it off. That's it. People thought this was hot? 'Soul Survivors' is one of those drop-dead boring movies that is so weak and inept that it is hard to have ANY feelings at all toward it. It puts out nothing and is hardly worth writing about. In the end it leaves us empty. Carpenter's finale is a mess of flashing light and pounding sound and that's probably the most lively part. It will no doubt be making the rounds as a late night staple on USA or the Sci-Fi Channel, due to it's low cost and PG-13 rating - and that's probably best for it.
A direct ripoff of Carnival of Souls 1998 version, only with a slightly
different ending. A college student who is about to move away from her
boyfriend decides to go clubbing with their friends, but after leaving the
club they are involved in a mysterious car accident that kills her
boyfriend. He friends are supposedly moving on, but there behavior has
changed. She is being stalked by people at the club, she keeps seeing her
dead boyfreind on campus, and she keeps having weird and disturbing visions.
Is she going crazy? Or has her boyfreind returned from the
Figuring out the answer to the mystery is very easy, but the film is done with style, has a few well done and exciting chase sequences, and a very appealing cast, especially leading lady Melissa Sagglimer who is a real find in her first feature length performance. However the ending is rushed and the film suffers from a feeling of deja vu, especailly since it has been done before and done better with other films.
This movie is just insulting.
Did the director/writer/producer think they could pull this off and captivate the audience?
It seems as though they collected cut scenes from misc. B-movie horror flicks and pasted them all together for this movie. There is no continuity; at no time does the story move in any real direction; and scenes jump from the bizarre to the completely unrelated and even more bizarre. What makes them bizarre is not a surrealistic feel or inspired art, but God-awful acting and unrealistic situations.
The final scene of this movie is just ridiculous. It's an insult and a slap in the face of every moviegoer with an IQ over 50. Remember talking with your friends, about how cool it'd be to make a movie that was all just a meaningless dream? Well, it definitely ISN'T cool.
From the beginning scene (a completely meaningless and impossible murder of an unrelated and unexplained victim), to the weird masked-people from the rave, to the sicko lesbian with the quick, gross boobie shot, to the dead father Jude (Luke, what were you thinking?!), to the stupid stupid STUPID ending, this movie was a waste of time from its inception.
I sure wish this movie was a dream, so I wouldn't have wasted 90 minutes of
my life. It is way too confusing for the viewer. And I didn't like how it
was edited together. The story, what you could make of it, was way too
choppy. I guess part of the problem was I thought this was a scary movie
with ghosts or something. But, it is supposed to be more suspenseful than
scary. And last, I got to say this had the stupidest scene with 2 girls in
the shower. What was the point of that?
FINAL VERDICT: I guess they were trying to make a 6th sense type film, but missed the mark. It'll hurt your head trying to keep up with what is going on since it jumps around so much, so don't waste your time with this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you've seen Blair Witch 2, you'd know it would take some doing to equal
its weirdness. Soul
Survivors certainly does. (Without a goth eating an owl)
It starts out similarly to I Know What You Did Last Summer (4 friends going to separate colleges; the golden couple being separated by geography), but soon becomes its own movie. The 4 friends, Cassie [Melissa Sagemiller], her boyfriend Sean [Casey Affleck], her ex Matt [Wes Bentley] and friend Annabel [Eliza Dushku-playing a character very similar to Faith], leave a dull frat party,on Annabel's request, to go to a 'club' (which is a derelict church) The rave scenes are shot really claustrophobically,by the way. Matt goades Cassie into kissing him (a goodbye kiss). She does, but Sean sees and is furious. They leave and are in a car accident, which leaves Sean "dead".
The weirdness ensues hereafter, as the film keeps switching between fantasy and reality, only we don't know which is which. Cassie is pursued by a scarred man, masked man, witnesses Matt and Annabel acting strangely and has visions of Sean. She also encounters a priest [Luke Wilson] who died over 20 years ago.
Some of the weird stuff can be traced to the beginning. (The blood-scrawled message on the club wall reappears on Cassie's philosophy midterm). Some stuff, however, is utterly incomprehensible:
1/ Cassie running through the hospital/club simultaneously. Hallucination-within-hallucination? 2/ The gazebo scene,before Cassie is knocked down.
I know this is someone's subconscious, but it's a FILM for god's sake! It should make SOME sense! This is either a hidden message film (like BW2) or it's downright bizarre.
GOOD STUFF: Sean actually being the survivor and appearing in Cassie's subconscious... the chase between Cassie & the masked man... Raven the (wo)man- got quite a laugh from the audience...the crash scene-well shot...the scene where Cassie can only see her stalker in the shop windows
BAD STUFF: Constant shifting between fantasy & reality...the rave scenes...nothing explained satisfactorily...
I went with 3 friends. They hated it. I didn't. You've a 1 in 4 chance of liking it. B-. Didn't suck.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the writer/director is reading this (and I imagine you are since you
should now be out of work) then I must tell you - I have seen some bad
movies in my time but this one gets the distinction of having the worst
premise I've ever heard.
SPOILERS - Nothing happens!
A total waste of time. I laughed out loud at the end.
SIDE NOTE - (if the whole movie was her in a coma then does the scene where she sleeps with that guy mean someone raped her while she was knocked out?)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wanted to watch this movie because of Eliza Dushku, but she only has
a smaller part in it, and her character isn't very likable. However,
the main character, played by Melissa Sagemiller, is extremely
beautiful and a perfect delight to look at throughout the movie. This
is really nothing but a showcase for her looks and talent. She does a
very good job.
The story itself is, on the face of it, pretty nonsensical. After a car crash, some friends are possibly dead, but keeps on living their previous lives, while all sorts of mysterious things happen. Some bad guys are after them, but we never really find out who they are (possibly they were the ones in the other car, but we certainly don't hear anything about why they are after them). The final scenes especially seem filmically ambitious, but I can't get anything coherent out of it. The opening scene, where the bad guys (who wear some strange masks) cut a blond girl's wrist and gather up some of her blood is never explained or followed up on. Unless the bad guys are supposed to be a representation of the surgeons who're trying to pull Cassie (Sagemiller) back from the dead... but no, that doesn't seem to work. The bad guys are just bad guys; they really just mess up a story that might otherwise have been interesting. In a supernatural story about death and love and sacrifice, who the hell needs bad guys?
3 out of 10.
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