Soul Survivors


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The teen horror flick has a problem. After the hugely successful Scream slasher series, with its I Know What You Did Last Summer subsidiaries, not to mention the Scary Movie spoofs, what next?

Soul Survivors is a brave attempt at something different. Writer/director Steve Carpenter lays it on thick. Flashbacks, dream sequences and supernatural intervention merge into a miasma of disjointed, tricksy effects. Hitchcock demonstrated in Psycho that empathy with a victim is the key to scaring the living daylights out of an audience. Carpenter fails to do this, because his heroine spends the entire movie as confused as everyone else.

Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) loves Sean (Casey Affleck). She used to love Matt (Wes Bentley). Best friend Annabel (Eliza Dushku) is a club junkie, who gets off-her-face and dances all night.

Early one morning, after an incident with Matt that upsets Sean, they drive away from the club, with Annabel high as a kite in the back seat, and crash the car. Sean is killed. Cassie receives a skull wound that requires surgery. The others are unscathed.

Weeks after the funeral, Cassie is still grieving. Annabel suggests an evening at the club. Matt suggests an evening between the sheets. He doesn't suggest it, he does it, but she's so weird in her head, she thought she was making love to Sean.

By this time, she's seeing him on campus. These ghostly apparitions appear to Cassie as real. Sean speaks to her and they walk hand-in-hand in the woods. It's not like Ghost, where Patrick Swayze was frustrated by invisibility. Sean is there. Or, maybe not.

As the movie progresses, Cassie loses it more and more until she doesn't know which way is up. She's not the only one. All is explained at the end, but by then it's too late, because you don't care. Carpenter should watch Jacob's Ladder and learn a thing or two about creating a sense of unease.

The cast can't compete. Bentley, who made an impact as Thora Birch's voyeuristic boyfriend in American Beauty, looks demonic. Dushku, who knows about goth cosmetics from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is wickedly sexy. Affleck, Ben's brother, plays nicey nicey, even when dead, and newcomer Sagemiller does a lot of running, although she needs a lesson from someone who doesn't swing their arms from side to side. The ever-popular Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde) appears as the ghost of a priest. He must be wondering whether he will ever play a less demanding role.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2002
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Weird, ghostly things happen to Melissa Sagemiller after her boyfriend is killed in a car crash.
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Director: Steve Carpenter

Writer: Steve Carpenter

Starring: Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Eliza Dushku, Melissa Sagemiller, Angela Featherstone, Luke Wilson

Year: 2001

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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