Soul Survivors

As bad as movie studios are in releasing junk to the masses, apparently they even know when they have something bad in the pipeline. Soul Survivors is a perfect case in point. This one sat on the shelf for over a year. Seeing it now, one wonders why Artisan Entertainment didn't just leave it there. The story falls along the lines of the recent fad of teen slasher/horror type movies, but production fell squarely near the end of this fad, and the release date sets it well after any meaningful movies of this type came out. The four principal actors in this movie, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Eliza Dushku, and Melissa Sagemiller, are all at the beginning of their careers, and all seem destined for some sort of success (critical, commercial, or both), and Soul Survivors will end up as a curious black mark on their resumes.

Things are set in motion after a horrific car crash kills Sean (Affleck, American Pie 2, Ocean's Eleven). Life goes on for his three friends, although his girlfriend Cassie (Sagemiller, Get Over It, Sorority Boys) still feels extremely depressed. She goes to college with her friend Annabel (Dushku, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Bring It On), but unlike Annabel, refuses to party and just mopes. Worse, she thinks that Sean's ghost is haunting her, and masked men seem to be chasing her. It all resembles a journey through Hell, and things get progressively worse for Cassie. She does not know what is real, and what is in her imagination. The only anchor she has is Jude (Luke Wilson, Legally Blonde, Charlie's Angels), a local priest. He wants to help, while Annabel and Matt's (Bentley, The Claim, American Beauty) intentions are much murkier. They act odd and do strange things, just for the sake of it.

Everything that writer/director Stephen Carpenter (The Kindred, Death Dorm) is doing is leading up to what he thinks is a surprise twist. He does deserve some credit for trying to put in some hints and clues throughout the movie, but the problem is that it is so blatantly obvious where this movie is going that halfway through the film, the secret is not a secret anymore. The title also makes a little more sense, but explaining why would give it away. Otherwise, Soul Survivors is little more than an exercise in backlighting and gothic type party design. There's a completely random subplot involving Dushku and a person she meets in college (Angela Featherstone, Rituals and Resolutions, Skipped Parts). Incidentally, Featherstone is in her mid-30s playing a young college student. Yeah, right.

Wilson and Bentley, probably the most experienced and capable actors in this movie, fail to generate much of anything. Wilson is a sympathetic ear, and Bentley is just plain boring. In most movies where Wilson has this supporting role of a supporting friend, he is not very interesting, especially since he does take larger, more rigorous roles where he succeeds. Dushku is the same person she is in every movie, and Affleck does not have enough screentime to register a presence. Sagemiller has the most time on camera, but the script paints her in such a bad light that it is annoying to constantly listen to her. Carpenter was probably hoping to write her such that the audience will sympathize with her plight and want her to get to the bottom of everything, but instead one just wants her to shut up.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, sexuality, and some substance abuse.

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