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Soul Survivors
Reviewed by Jason Myers, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Steve Carpenter
Genre:   Thriller
Released:   August 7, 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   3/10 (What Is This?)

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 wits.

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.


At first RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers was afraid. He was petrified. Kept thinking he could never live without you by his side. But then he spent so many nights just thinking how you'd done him wrong, and he grew strong, he learned how to get along.

 
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