A scene from 'Soul Survivors'
Courtesy Photo
* star 90 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, August 24, 2001
Directed by Steve Carpenter

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

This film received a dishonorable mention on the Worst of 2001 list.


Will likely seem utterly fright-less on the small screen, where cheap "jump" scares don't have the punch they do in a theater w/ a 20' screen and surround speakers.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 02.26.2002


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Revamped in post-production, horror pic about haunted coed limps toward insultingly obvious ending

By Rob Blackwelder

In "Soul Survivors" a relatively inventive horror movie concept is used as a launching pad for a pathetic parade of standard-issue jumps and frights that can't raise a single goosebump.

The concept (which owes a debt to Adrian Lyne's mind-melting "Jacob's Ladder") is that an angelic coed (Melissa Sagemiller, "Get Over It") becomes haunted by nightmares and vision of her dead boyfriend (Casey Affleck) after he's killed in a car wreck while she was behind the wheel. The girl begins to lose her grip on what's real and what she imagines while her cryptic best friends (Wes Bentley and Eliza Dushku) try to keep her sane.

But two post-production revamps -- one without writer-director Steve Carpenter -- left the film with laughably conspicuous trims for the sake of a belated, teen-friendly PG-13 declawing (now that theaters are enforcing the R rating). All that remains of the story's slight creative promise is a transparent and very pedestrian chiller without chills.

Pretty young Cassie (Sagemiller) drifts without warning in and out of vague, banal horrors (blood-spewing shower drains, being chased by hell-bent psychos) and trifling fantasies (a stroll in the park with the dead sweetheart). Meanwhile Carpenter (or whoever took over for him in post) angles for the cheapest kind of jolts, like quick flashes of disfigured faces in a mirror, accompanied by thunderous thumps on the soundtrack -- which otherwise sounds so much like a Goth-rave party mix that many fright scenes feel as toothless as a music video.

Employing an over-abundance of crane shots, dark alleys, shaky-cams and other elementary cinematic techniques, "Soul Survivors" quickly becomes so nonsensical and disjointed that barely two reels have unspooled before anyone watching with one eye open will have deduced what's really going on with Cassie.

Then all that's left to do is twiddle one's thumbs until the "shocker" finale you knew was coming all along.


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