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SOUL SURVIVORS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Eliza Dushku, Melissa Sagemiller, Luke Wilson
Director: Steve Carpenter
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Artisan
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: February 26, 2002

“Do you love me, Cassie?”

“I don’t want to die.”

“If you stay here, you WILL die.”

Film *

Soul Survivors is a most inexplicable, completely desperate and overall unoriginal supernatural thriller whose only existence seems to be due to the success of much more popular thrillers like The Sixth Sense, Final Destination, The Others and even a barely seen gem called Stir of Echoes. This, however, is clearly aimed at the teen audience, with the movie being marketed as the latest movie from the producers of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend, two movies that I never forgave for robbing me of my precious time. I was willing to excuse that notion for once because the cast assembled in Soul Survivors is a lineup of actors that I very much admire. Unfortunately, these talents aren’t even able to begin to save this desperate act of cheap thrills.

The film opens on a group of friends headed off to experience their first year at college. The friends are Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller), lifelong friend Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and her boyfriend, Matt (Wes Bentley). Also along for the trip is Cassie’s boyfriend, Sean (Casey Affleck), whose helping with her move, but is actually moving on to another college the following day. Later in the night, the four decide to attend an out of town nightclub. It is there that later that night when Matt gets Cassie alone and confesses feelings for her, leaving Sean in a slight jealous frenzy. Driving back later that night, the four encounter some unfriendly road company and get into a horrific car accident. Cassie, Annabel and Matt survive, but Sean is killed instantly.

The aftermath is very difficult for Cassie to accept, especially when she begins to experience an enormous amount of hallucinations everyday. These, of course, result in her appearing crazy in numerous public settings. Matt and Annabel do what they can to help her cope with the loss, even though they don’t understand the visions she’s having. Among her hallucinations is the image of Sean, who is by Cassie’s sign mostly when she is in fear of her life or whenever she is being rushed in to the hospital on a gurney. Also seeking to help Cassie is the compassionate Father Jude (Luke Wilson), who tries to comfort her in her times of extreme fear.

After all the familiar mumbo-jumbo clichés that Soul Survivors has to offers, the film begs a plot twist that when revealed, isn’t the slightest bit enough to make the viewer surprised, even a person like me who seems to get knocked out by any plot twist. All that I can make sense of the revelation is that it appears to be attempting the same twist that was executed in Vanilla Sky, but there’s simply no use in comparing useless drivel like this to a cinematic marvel like Cameron Crowe’s recent remarkable opus.

Soul Survivors is the same kind of useless, teen-oriented, cliché-ridden horror picture that I was hoping would end following the dreadful Urban Legend and I Know What You Did Last Summer debacles. Hopefully, Artisan’s lack of enthusiasm for the movie in its theatrical run is a sign that this type of genre is coming to a close very, very soon.

Video ***

Artisan does this release a bit of justice with this anamorphic transfer. Picture quality is impressive and resides very well, especially in bright lighted and outdoor settings. The movie also includes a great deal of darkly lit scenes, many of which don’t turn up as impressively, but for the whole part this is a mostly decent video presentation.

Audio ***1/2

The movie’s sound quality is one of enormous fury, and Artisan’s audio presentation demonstrates this notion very perfectly. The 5.1 digital presentation serves the movie’s blazing sound to a grand extent, enhancing the furious music soundtrack that accompanies it, which is mostly that of hard alternative/metal. There are many scenes that take place in nightclubs, which are the standout moments of the presentation.

Features ****

Artisan has prevailed immensely in this department, and they continue the terrific form even for one of their more lackluster releases. Included are two documentaries; a brief featurette on the making of the movie and a mostly amusing interview with the rock band Harvey Danger, who contributed to the soundtrack, which is an obvious fluke as the band talks of how the concept of the film was theirs originally. Very funny to watch. Also include is scene-select commentary from co-star Melissa Sagemiller, three deleted scenes, animated storyboards, trailers for this movie and five additional Artisan releases, Blair Witch 2, The Ninth Gate, Stir of Echoes, The Mangler 2, and the upcoming theatrical release, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.

Another added bonus; the menus give you three options of menu designs, labeled as Reality, Dream & Nightmare. Quite a neat touch!

Summary:

Soul Survivors is as weak as supernatural thrillers go, but Artisan’s DVD release is a good disc, indeed, which if purchased, should be for interest in the extras alone.