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Case Number 01737

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Soul Survivors

Artisan // 2001 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 8th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

The world of the dead and the world of the living…are about to collide.

Opening Statement

Remember when Soul Survivors hit theaters? No? Me neither. Coming on the heels of the now pretty much defunct post-modern horror genre, Soul Survivors floundered like a gasping goldfish at the multiplexes before taking its final breath on DVD. Languishing on a studio shelf since 1999, Soul Survivors is the story of lost love, guys is plastic masks, and other things that made the Scream knock-offs so crappy. Brought to you by the producers of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend (easily two of the worst horror movies in the past few years), Soul Survivors comes crashing down on DVD care of Artisan Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) is off to college for some real wild times! Unfortunately, her boyfriend Sean (Casey Affleck, Good Will Hunting) is going to be leaving for Harvard and the two will be doing that whole "long distance relationship" thing. Bummer. After a night of partying with her boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend Matt (Wes Bentley, American Beauty), and his bitchy yet sexy girlfriend Annabel (Eliza Dushku, TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Cassie accidentally kisses Matt which infuriates Sean (well, duh). While arguing in the car about her and Matt's little peck (insert penis joke here), Cassie slams into another car, causing her car to roll down an embankment and make a general mess out of the two automobiles. Flash forward a few weeks later. Cassie and her friends have survived, but her loving boyfriend Sean has not. Haunted at college by dreams of the accident, Cassie tries to make sense of all the wackiness that's going on around her. This includes, but is not limited to, being chased by a man in a plastic mask, seeing blood squirt up from her shower drain, hallucinating about a twisted hospital, and showering with her friend Annabel (actually, that's not so wacky, but it is fun to watch). Cassie is also seeing visions of Sean, who comes back to haunt her, sporting the same Gap clothing he was wearing when he died (apparently heaven is co-sponsored by the American fashion industry).

Is Cassie crazy? Or could is be that she…is the only…SOUL SURVIVOR??!?!?!

And do you really care?

The Evidence

"The Killer Cut!," the front of the DVD case reads. "More blood! More sex! More terror than the theatrical release." Well whoop-dee-friggin'-do. I could pop a boil and buy you a Playboy and that'd be more exciting than watching Soul Survivors. This movie is a complete mess from start to finish. I thought we'd seen rock bottom with Urban Legend and its paltry sequel. I was wrong. Here, for all the world to despise, is Soul Survivors.

So what went wrong with Soul Survivors? Let's start with the script. I consider myself to be a halfway intelligent being. I can read, write, and count up to at least 100. When I attempt to pick my nose, I usually hit the right hole. That being said, I can say with confidence that I don't have a damn clue what happened in Soul Survivors. Was it all a dream? A nightmare? Is Cassie dead? Alive? In-between? I dunno. Writer/director Steve Carpenter's (no relation to John, thank God) script is just way too muddled to be even remotely close to coherent. Dead characters pop up, they disappear. Other characters, presumably, have connections to the dead, but we're never sure why or how. Events in the film often take place twice or three times, sometimes completely different from the original incident. In other words, it's all very confusing (apparently Soul Survivors was supposed to be a sort of "generation X Romeo and Juliet horror movie," but I'm not even going to try to go into that).

Suspense and originality is cast right out the window. I can't tell you how many scenes were shown where I knew EXACTLY what was going to happen. When Cassie's ex-boyfriend Matt pesters her for one last kiss, how much do you want to bet that Sean will show up just in time to see the display of affection? And what do you think the chances are that Cassie's dramatically gory nosebleed during an exam will turn out to be just a dream? In fact, there are lots of "ohthankheavenitwasonlyadream!" moments in this movie (I counted around five, but I could be off by one or two). And then we come to the guy chasing Cassie who wears a clear, plastic Halloween mask. Who is he? Once again, the film never makes it clear. It feels as if the story wants him to be a Freddy/Jason/Mike Meyers-like villain, but he's never on screen long enough for this to take place.

As for the cast, they are all apt in their roles, but that's little consolation: good performances utilized in crappy material is still crap. Wes Bentley signed onto this film before his role in the Oscar-winning American Beauty, so at least he has a half-way decent excuse. Here Bentley plays a slightly creepy ex-boyfriend who pines for a cute girl (Mr. Bentley, I think it's time for you to stretch as an actor). Newcomer Melissa Sagemiller fops around crying, running, screaming, crying, screaming some more, and then running some more. In other words, let's wait for her next film to see if she can act. Eliza Dushku prances around with her boobs practically hanging out, her smoldering eyes crying out, "Hey! Look at me! I'm here to keep your attention since the plot sure as hell won't!" Casey Affleck as the dead boyfriend and Luke Wilson as the kindly Father Jude both have the charisma of an impotent 98-year old smoking pot.

I guess by now it's plain as day that I thought Soul Survivors sucked big time. I don't think that I am going to be alone in this belief. Surpassing Urban Legend as the worst horror movie in years (Horror? Where? All I saw was some blood, a few scrapes, and a couple of bruises). For those renting or buying on the promise of more sex, your only reward will be seeing the bare breasts of some scary looking lesbian who seems as if her name should be Frank. If that sort of thing floats your boat, by all means grab your copy of Soul Survivors. For the rest of us, we'll pass, thank-you-very-much.

Soul Survivors is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Say what you will about the film, but this transfer from Artisan looks pretty darn good. Sporting well saturated black levels and even color patterns, this is a great looking transfer for a shoddy looking movie. I spotted only the smallest amount of edge enhancement in one scene, but it was nothing that will distract from the viewing. Artisan has done a great job on this image and should be commended.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and is also top notch. Featuring lots of thumping alternative music and some nice sound effects, Soul Survivors's soundtrack is filled with directional effects and ambient noise. Enveloping the viewer with sounds and screams, this is a clear mix that includes no excessive distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc is a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack in English, as well as Spanish subtitles.

Soul Survivors features a few extra supplements that should please fans (if there are any out there). Starting the disc is a select scene audio commentary by actress Melissa Sagemiller. There are about six different scenes to listen through, and Sagemiller tends to expound upon either what's going on on-screen or what the scene is supposed to mean. This is not the most exciting commentary track ever recorded and it runs about a half hour.

Three deleted scenes presented roughly in non-anamorphic widescreen, and none of them add anything to the final film. "Behind the Deathmask: The Making of Soul Survivors" is a very short four-minute featurette that includes interviews with the main cast. This is your typical promo spot for the film that adds little insight into the making of the movie. "Living Dangerously: The Art of Harvey Danger" is a fake interview with some band that apparently contributed a song to the film. They also claim that Artisan stole their idea for the film. Or something like that. You can pretty much skip this feature. It's pretty lame.

Finally, there are two theatrical trailers for Soul Survivors, a few extra trailers for other Artisan titles, some animated storyboards which show the drawings first then the scene, some info on the cast and crew, and a few scant production notes.

Closing Statement

Soul Survivors is one long snoozer of a film (and it only runs 85 minutes)! I'm not sure what went wrong here, but you can bet that this movie is the death nail in the coffin of the '90s teen horror genre. Avoid it at all costs.

The Verdict

Soul Survivors is guilty, guilty, guilty! Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 98
Audio: 96
Extras: 80
Acting: 72
Story: 57
Judgment: 58

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Select Scene Commentary by Melissa Sagemiller
• "Behind The Deathmask - The Making Of Soul Survivors" Featurette
• "Living Dangerously - The Art Of Harvey Danger" Featurette
• Theatrical Trailers
• Bonus Trailers
• Cast and Crew Information
• Production Notes
• Animated Storyboards


• IMDb
• Official Site

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