When the selling point of a movie is "From the producers of I Know
What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend", you know you're
in for a winner. What the makers of Scream clones still haven't figured
out is that the magical ingredient for the success of Scream was its
wit, not its cast of attractive young stars.
Well, this time around at least the concept is more interesting. Instead of
the straight-up "Let's see how many people we can kill in unpleasant ways,"
they try the "What's going on here? Am I going mad or is the whole world
out to get me?"
A college girl (Melissa Sagemiller), her boyfriend (Casey Affleck), and her
friends (Eliza Dushku, Wes Bentley) get into a car accident that kills her boyfriend.
In the weeks that follow, she begins seeing strange things, having visions.
Mysterious (and sometimes sinister) figures haunt her path. What's going on?
It's all so very foreboding and blah blah blah.
Unfortunately, I already knew what was going on, because the one-line summary
of the movie that I read before heading off to the theater gave away the whole
thing. As such, I will admit that I am not the most unbiased reviewer. I tend
to think, however, that, even if I had walked into the movie not knowing the
key to the mystery, I still would come up with the same verdict: given the many
things that you could do with seven dollars and/or 95 minutes, Soul Survivors
isn't really worth a look.
The movie starts at a solid mediocre five out of ten.
Deduct one point for the acting. Wes Bentley (American Beauty) is good
as the ex-boyfriend, bringing some intensity and gravity to the movie. But it
looks like Eliza Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) is going to
be playing variations on her Faith character from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
forever. Melissa Sagemiller (the main character, though she gets hidden
behind her more well-known costars on the movie poster) is fine. Luke Wilson
brings nothing to the table as a Father Jude, whose sole purpose is to provide
lame pseudo-philosophical exposition at the end. And Casey Affleck, as the boyfriend,
is as stale and flat as a cardboard box. I know he's supposed to be the good-hearted,
supportive type, but couldn't he add a little inflection to his voice, or change
his facial expression once in a while?
Then deduct one point for the schmaltzy gag-inducing After School Special
ending, and the lame "this is why this has been happening to you speech"
that Father Jude gives.
Add one point for the vague sense of dread and impending chaos. There were
a few nice touches, including the image of red blood dripping on a white sneaker,
and the girl's classroom scenes.
Subtract that point for the lack of any true sense of terror, especially during
those scenes that, in the final analysis, aren't much different from a guy in
a hockey mask chasing someone through the woods.
The makers of Soul Survivors made some changes to the movie to bump
it down from an R-rating to PG-13. There's a scene with obvious overdubbing
of some naughty words, and the nudity ended up getting clipped from the final
version. This was a wise move. With the recent consternation over studios aiming
advertising for R-rated movies directly at teens, and the fact that some movie
theaters are actually carding for R-rated movies (I started going to R-rated
movies by myself when I was 13 or 14, and the first time I was ever carded was
when I was 21), this movie was unlikely to reach its target audience: teens
who are just beginning to learn how much fun it is to get scared out of your
Unfortunately, us old dogs (by old, I mean "above 20") have seen
most of the old tricks already, and Soul Survivors doesn't have much
new to offer.