Soul Survivors Movie Review

In my opinion, a movie reviewer's most important task is to offer an explanation for his opinion. But with Soul Survivors, I'm so full of critical rage that this review is liable to turn into a venomous, uncontrollable rant, obligations damned.

However, protocol forces me to do otherwise. Soul Survivors tells the story of four college-bound friends: Cassandra (Melissa Sagemiller) is sweet and innocent. Party girl Annabel (Eliza Dushku of Bring It On) is dating world-weary Harvard student Matt (Wes Bentley). Matt still has feelings for Cassie, who is now dating Sean (Casey Affleck).

Driving back from a creepy, gothic party, the quartet gets into a horrific car crash. Sean dies, leaving Cassie crestfallen and guilty, made worse because Sean saw Matt kiss Cassie just minutes after Sean revealed his love for her.

As Cassie mopes through her classes, she sees the ghost of Sean all over the place, urging her to follow him. Along with being plagued by other ghastly visions, Cassie is also followed by thugs from that strange party. Annabel and Matt try calming her down, but no one shares Cass's visions. She has to figure out this purgatory all by herself.

Rarely have I seen a director so thoroughly mishandle material. In his directorial debut, Steve Carpenter does nothing to provoke the audience into feeling any emotion. When the movie's camerawork isn't pedestrian, it's clichéd. Carpenter's need for close-ups, his camera following Sagemiller from behind, drain the movie of any anticipation. We already know what to look for, so why should we be surprised? And the sense of scary atmosphere, which was recently done so well in The Others, is nowhere to be found here.

Carpenter's script relies on random twists and turns with a minimum of logic and loads of laziness. This is a movie where the ending features one character providing an explanation about the plot to another character, which is one of the lamest screenwriting devices around. The second lamest device, of course, is the, "Oh, it was all a dream" resolution. And guess what? This movie has both!

Not that the main body of the film, which has Sagemiller constantly running in fear or having a nervous breakdown, is anything worthwhile. Since there's no captivating dialogue, no character chemistry exists anywhere. That's a huge problem, since the four main characters are supposed to be couples.

Carpenter can't even get the smutty scenes right, which are becoming more prevalent in PG-13 movies like Bring It On and Get Over It. [The film was recently re-cut from an R rating to get more kids in the seats. -Ed.] When Sagemiller and Dushku dance together at a club, he rarely shows them in a full shot and he never keeps the camera on them for longer than a second before relating to some Michael Bay-style quick cuts. And when Sagemiller and Dushku take a shower together after getting covered in paint, they're fully clothed. Regardless, any sexiness in that scene is undercut by its stupidity. Why wouldn't they wash the clothes in the sink or in the washing machine? Why would they shower in their clothes? What if they weren't covered in latex paint?

The cast, which will see better material in the future, would be wise to leave this one off their resumes. I felt sorry for Affleck, who I've liked in other movies, and Bentley, who was great in American Beauty. Dushku, who possesses an alluring femme fetale quality, has got to stop taking roles belonging to Rose McGowan. As for Sagemiller (star of the aforementioned Get Over It), I want to see her in a movie where she plays a person, and not an object for gawking. And I'm not even getting into Luke Wilson's role as a priest. At least he's friends with Wes Anderson.

Bottom line: Soul Survivors is so awful I feel compelled to knock on doors and warn people about it.

The studio has tried to salvage this wreck with the home video/DVD release, touting it as "The Killer Cut," with "More Blood! More Sex! More Terror!" If a single quick shot of a topless Angela Featherstone and a few shot's of Sagemiller's naked back pass for "More Sex!" these days, we really need to reevaluate what passes for marketing.

If you liked the movie, you can buy this prop!

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : , Neal H. Moritz


steve carpenter's picture

steve carpenter

I wrote and directed Soul Survivors. Your review was right on. Every criticism you have is directly due to the studio's re-cut and re-mix.It was a good movie once, before Artisan Ent. got their grubby hands all over it.Steve Carpenter

4 years 3 months ago
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Soul Survivors Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG-13, 2001


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