3 different interactive
Dushku and Melissa Sagemiller paint each other. Got your attention,
Tech Specs: Widescreen,
aspect ratio 16:9, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English Dolby
Stereo Surround 2.0, Spanish subtitles.
In its opening
moment, Soul Survivors appears to be a run-of-the-mill teen
slasher film. A young co-ed walks down a windswept, empty, moonlit
street. Out of the corner of her eye, she spies a dark-clad masked
stalker. They speed up their dance of fate, ending with her stabbed
in a stylishly expanding pool of her own blood.
But as the included
behind the scenes documentary will tell you over and over, Soul
Survivors is not a slasher film; it's a psychological thriller.
Or at least it wants to be. (Though the blood-red subtitle The
Killer Cut does not bode well for finely-crafted suspense.) It
also wants to be a half-dozen other things, and though this DVD release
is entertaining, it's for few of the things it intends to be.
never know it from the materials here, Soul Survivors was a
troubled production. Delayed in its theatrical release a couple of
times, mostly due to skittishness over its violent content, the movie
sports a lead actress who in all advertising is downplayed if not
removed entirely. Never a good sign.
your lead character?
movie does have a tremendous earnestness. What it lacks is subtlety,
and in some places, even coherence. (Who actually gets killed in that
opening scene, for instance, never really gets resolved, nor does
it necessarily matter.) What you will glean is this: on the night
before they leave for college, Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) and her
friends party at a goth club, get into a fight, and then an accident
that leaves her boyfriend Sean (Casey Affleck) dead. Or does it?
Weeks after the
accident, as Cassie tries to get through the already stressful freshman
year, Sean keeps popping up, looking really soulful and understanding.
As if that weren't enough, she also thinks she's being stalked by
a weirdly masked man and his hulking Native American sidekick. Whoever
he is, he's more Michael Myers than Lone Ranger. Occasionally, too,
Cassie hallucinates blood coming out of drains, mirrors, and her own
Her friends try
to be understanding. Ex-boyfriend Matt (Wes Bentley) quits Harvard
to help her through, though of course he has ulterior motives involving
nudity. And Annabel (Eliza Dushku) just wants to party on, occasionally
jealous of Matt's closeness to Cassie, and occasionally involved in
hot lesbian grope sessions with the mysterious Raven (Angela Featherstone).
Sorry. I just ruined a surprise. Actually, what's more surprising
is that despite mocking Raven's lesbianism just before the accident,
Cassie is stunned to discover that she's a woman.
Dream logic is
difficult to pull off, and instead of being dreamy here, everything
is just disjointed.
That may be the
fault of editing. Though the film has a lot of style, it lacks in
substance. According to the box, The Killer Cut has restored
blood, sex, and terror, but not any sense. Even then, it only clocks
in at 85 minutes, and that has a lot of uneven pacing. Somebody chopped
this film up for reasons other than to get that theatrical PG-13 rating.
(The video version is R.) Let us suspect someone other than the writer/director,
Stephen Carpenter, whose presence has been all but obliterated from
this package. His name remains in the credits, but in the extras,
he is not even mentioned in the cast and crew information.
might have had some interesting insight, we get leading lady Sagemiller
offering commentary on five scenes. None of it gets any deeper than
"…it was fun dancing with Eliza in this scene." When she does try,
it just makes her sound ignorant. Discussing Luke Wilson's role as
a kindly yet mysterious priest, Sagemiller offers, "Father Jude is
like the patron of travelers in Catholic mythology." If any Catholics
are reading this, feel free to write in.
Joe Quesada got
to "dance" with her, too.
But her naivete
almost redeems the whole thing, because it's just silly to have a
first-time film actress be the only person expounding on the filmmaking
process. She repeats herself in the "making of" featurette, where
all the young actors come off a little twitty. (Except for Dushku,
who has managed to create a tough girl persona that works believably
"behind the scenes," too.) Bentley can be somewhat forgiven, as he
shot all this before he made American Beauty.
Buried in the
extras is a clever short called Living Dangerously - The Art of
Harvey Danger. In the spirit of recent Spinal Tap appearances,
the band Harvey Danger claims that Artisan misrepresented themselves
to the band and stole their idea for a film called Soul Survivors.
They didn't realize they'd been snookered by Hollywood until two minutes
into the premiere, when the soundtrack shifted to some other band's
music. Still, they are bound and determined to do it their way, which
is, of course, as a bad rock musical. As a promotional tool, it worked,
because I've since become interested in the band Harvey Danger.
Artisan has put
together a decent package with what they could. (Though they pad it
with a choice of three different interfaces -- "Reality, "Dream,"
or "Nightmare." It's like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland:
they're promising you a different ride each time, but they lie.) Not
quite a silk purse, this might still make a fun rental. And if you
do, please explain to me who the heck got killed at the beginning
and why I should care.