Thursday, April 11, 2002

"Soul Survivors" (12) Momentum Pictures Home Rental DVD/Video

Clocking in just shy of ninety minutes, but seeming a whole hell of a lot longer, writer and director Steve Carpenter's post-"Scream" scarefest "Soul Survivors" has little to commend it other than an easy-on-the-eye cast and some well-chosen soundtrack cues (Your critic being especially pleased to hear his beloved Deftones' "Digital Bath" playing over the end credits). In fact, it fades from memory in roughly the time that it takes to remove the disc from your DVD player and replace it in the rental case

Carpenter is a directing regular on shows like "Dawson's Creek" and the soapier aspects of his screenplay for "Soul Survivors" often seem to outweigh the importance of tension and thrills in the film - For the initial section of the picture, we follow four teenage friends as they embark on their first weeks at a new university and spend the Autumn semester falling in love, honing old grudges and, in the manner of all films set around college life, singularly failing to do anything which approaches studying.

There is, of course, a romantic triangle to focus our attentions on. Matt (Wes Bentley) is still holding a none-too-subtle candle for his high school ex, Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller), and agrees to help her move away to college, deferring his own entry to an Ivy League school in a vain, last attempt to win her back from her current boyfriend, Sean (Casey Affleck), who has designs on asking Cassie to marry him. Also along for the ride is Cassie's best mate, and proto-Goth chick, Annabel (Eliza Dushku), who's finally off the parental leash and up for some major experimental hedonism as she attends Cassie's new school.

Things get predictably heated amidst the quartet at an off-campus rave, with raw emotions finally surfacing as Matt's clumsy advances towards Cassie are interrupted by Sean, and the ride back to college being rudely interrupted by arguments and the near-fatal car crash which finally kicks the plot into motion.

Sean dies in the accident and the rest of the friends try to get on with their lives, but something or someone won't let Cassie move on - She's haunted by visions of her former love, by an onslaught of visceral, waking nightmares, and it soon becomes clear that she's trapped in some kind of fugue state - lost between life and death and unable to distinguish her dream world and history from the far more attractive afterlife that she seems to be moving inexorably towards.

All of which seems like more than adequate fodder for a decent fright-flick, right? A sprinkle of fashionable "Buffy"/"Dawson's" teen angst, a hit of reality-bending "Jacob's Ladder" terror and the promise of psychological scares rather than all-out gore.

Fine in principle, but the end-result is a confection which is shocking only in being so remarkably bland, and terrifying solely because "Soul Survivors" took two years to reach our screens, emerging from heavy editing as a de-fanged, 12-rated nothing of a film, of appeal to only the most undemanding horror fanboy (Who won't want to bother with this when he finds out that gorgeous, pouting "Buffy" bad girl Eliza Dushku keeps her kit on throughout, contrary to the cleavage-fest cover artwork).

The rating means that every jump-inducing moment is entirely safe and eminently predictable five minutes ahead of it's arrival on screen, and that the overheated sexuality hinted at in the script remains parentally-acceptable and cringe-inducingly coy at all times - We're supposed to get the fact that Cassie and Sean are passionate lovers and meant to be together, yet the film tries to shy away from even showing them kissing. The film drops in hints of an affair between Annabel and her best Goth mate, Raven (Angela Featherstone), and blithely has Cassie and Annabel take a fully-clothed shower together, yet runs screaming away from any implication that the girls might be, you know, 'Friends of Dorothy'. Because that would get you a higher rating and bar those high-spending teenagers that this flick is so painstakingly directed at.

There's just no original thought or creativity at work here - Every element of "Soul Survivors" reminds you of previous, better horror films (And some fairly crass ones, too), making you wish that you were watching the aforementioned "Jacob's Ladder" or Miss Eliza as rogue slayer Faith, in a "Buffy" or "Angel" episode, instead. Even the cinematography and editing play like a compilation of steadicam bits from "The Shining" or the hallucinatory cuts from every slasher flick you've ever seen (The director certainly has).

When your highest aim as a filmmaker is to make a film that's the equal of the likes of "Urban Legend" or "I Know What You Did Last Summer", then it's possibly time to hit the classified ads and look for a new career.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

So, let me get these dissolute, but inherantly noteworthy nuggets of pop cultural trivia in a row and straight in my head : David Fincher's latest movie Panic Room has been the number one attraction at the US Box Office for two straight weeks, the new, Region Two DVD release of the Coen Brothers "The Man Who Wasn't There" has more stuff on it than the Region One and you can't give Microsoft's all-singing, all-dancing, polygon-juggling XBox video games console away in Japan or Europe. Things are weird, man - And by weird, I mean strange - As in stranger than reknowned eschewer of showers and washing machines, the always charming, often tuneful, semi-mentalist Andrew WK, who apparently exists solely on a diet of gruesomely unattractive power shakes and early 80's Night Ranger rarities.

The world? It is properly mental and no mistake. But kind of fun with it.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

And, for that matter, why not swing by another site of vital importance to those of us whose existances threaten to be given form and purpose, once and for all, on May 16th Click here, callow Padowan

Why not figure out this Dooku cat's game?.

Dude! An actual Jedi master has put down his fashionable old-skool Lightsabre for long enough to sign my humble guestbook. If I wasn't so scared about fictional characters somehow locating my neck of the electronic woods and posting absolute piffle on its pages, I'd be really freaked out right about now. Or as indifferent as I usually am. But, not to lose sight of the point - Fictional Jedi action! Huzzah!

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