Soul Survivors (2001)

soul survivors

“Do you love him enough to live for him?”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Stephen Carpenter and starring Melissa Sagemiller, Wes Bentley, Eliza Dushku, and Casey Affleck

Tagline: The World of the Dead and the World of the Living… are About to Collide.

Summary Capsule: After a tragic car accident that killed her boyfriend, Cassie’s world starts to get strange.

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Eunice’s rating: Dude, what is wrong with me?

Eunice’s review: Four friends are heading off to college: Cassie and Annabel to the same one, Matt to Harvard, Sean to somewhere. For their last night together they decide to go partying. They have a couple of run ins with another group of people, some of them drink too much, stuff happens, and it all winds up with Matt kissing Cassie and Sean catching them and Annabel being oblivious to what’s going on. They head for home with Cassie upset at the wheel. When the car in front of them, containing the dodgy trio from the party, skids on the rain slicked roads they end up with a head on collision and both cars going over a cliff. Sean, who was Cassie’s boyfriend, dies in the wreck and Cassie is left with the guilt. The guilt of being the driver, the guilt of the last thing she said to him being a fight over a misunderstanding, survivor’s guilt, but more than anything she had the chance to tell him she loved him but was too afraid.

Three weeks after the accident Cassie returns to college dour, distracted, guilt ridden, and… paranoid. Floating through her life in a state unreality Cassie begins to see flashes of strange things, maybe it’s all in her head. But then she starts getting visits from Sean! He keeps speaking in cryptic warnings about her being in danger and if she stays she’ll die. That’s when the dodgy characters from the club start stalking and chasing her. Or are they?

And yes it is as sappy as it sounds. See, Soul Survivors is a horror romance. Cassie is so blond and sweet she’ll make your teeth hurt. And Sean (played by Casey “hey at least I wasn’t in the BtVS movie” Affleck) while alive is kinda just as nauseating only without the blond. Dead he’s always gently back-lit, with gossamer floating behind him and -literally- a choir of female voices singing in the background. You know, in case you forgot he was dead. In fact, forget sappy, it’s downright treacly.

Then there’s the ancillary characters Matt and Annabel. Annabel is played by Eliza Dushku (who was obviously the most famous cast member at the time, just look at the poster) and is basically playing Faith. She’s a bad girl, I’m guessing because she’s the brunette and smokes. Matt is… the other guy? He used to date Cassie and now dates Annabel but wants to still date Cassie but is content to be in the Friend Zone. That is his only defining trait. I would say Matt and Annabel are also changed by the accident, but they’re not really defined enough to begin with. Annabel parties a lot and Matt is a clingy creeper.

That brings us to problem 2: Not only are the characters paper thin, but so is everything else. I’m not going to say how it ends, but if you’ve seen your share of horror/morality tale movies and TV shows then you’ll see the twist coming from a hundred miles away. The clues are so heavy handed it’s insulting. Look, movie, I don’t need a flashback to something that happened fifteen minutes ago.

It’s so by the numbers of the common teen horror and thriller flicks of its time it’s embarrassing. Let’s go through the checklist shall we? Majestic historical college campus. A guy in a threatening mask. Someone is on the swim team setting up for a pool attack. Shower scene. Religious imagery. And running. Lot’s and lots of running. I’m thinking the writer had some sort of terrible track experience, because according to this movie the most threatening thing someone can do is run.

All this would’ve made the movie average, but it continues to be drug down.

I will admit there are some parts that aren’t so bad, honest to goodness decent ideas, things that someone with a defter hand could’ve ran with. Seriously, if someone wants to claim this as the worst horror movie ever then they need to expand their film watching horizons.

But everything about the execution is lacking. The necessities for the horror genre -tension, atmosphere, creativity, imagination- are absent. The PG-13 rating takes away any teeth it could’ve possibly had. It’s like the camera was just turned on the actors, then instead of actually acting they just said their lines. Honestly -from mains to extras- the only one earning their paycheck is Luke Wilson as Father Jude. Special bad points go to Casey Affleck, it’s painful to watch him talk without any emotion.

But you know what? I’ve seen Soul Survivors a good ten times, maybe more. Why do I keep watching?

Well, for some reason when I’m not watching the movie I have myself convinced that I enjoy it. I like horror romance, especially couples working together without one of them being the killer (I also like horror stories with siblings working together), it’s different than a whole group of people sniping at each other and getting knocked off one by one. So when I remember Soul Survivors, in my head, the romance part isn’t treacly. Also, that those aforementioned ideas are good enough to overcome the acting and direction. When I actually watch it, it’s then I realize the truth: I just keep rewriting the movie in my head! Gah! Why do I torture myself?

Which brings me full circle to my Rating, “Dude, what is wrong with me?”

Y’know, he may be listed as “Hideous Dancer” but his moves ain’t that bad

Groovy Quotes

Annabel: What’s the drama?

Cassie: I don’t want to die!
Sean: You stay here, you will die.

Dr. Haverston: There is no grade on this kind of test.

Raven: Your friends aren’t your friends anymore, Cassie.

Raven: Don’t be afraid. You have to fight.

Father Jude: If you were to die so that he would live, would you feel absolved?
Cassie: I would. I would die for him.
Father Jude: Do you love him enough to live for him?

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One comment

  1. Personally, I have the opposite problem – I’ll see a movie, really like it, and then put off rewatching it for a long time because my brain is going ‘ehh, it wasn’t really THAT good, was it?’ Perhaps there’s some loose wiring in your subconscious, and your brain THINKS it’s doing that, when really it’s doing the exact opposite.

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