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Soul Survivors (March 16/02)

Soul Survivors, the most incoherent movie to come around in ages, not only manages to baffle with it's inane and convoluted storyline, but also winds up failing on even the most elementary levels (such as competent direction or generating thrills).

Melissa Sagemiller stars as a young woman who, as the movie opens, is heading off to college with her boyfriend (Casey Affleck) and two buddies (Wes Bentley and Eliza Dushku). It's not long before the four make their way into the underground partying scene, which apparently consists of wannabe devil-worshipers running around half-naked. A car accident ensues, and all logic and coherence evaporates at this point. Affleck is supposedly killed in the crash, and Sagemiller's life becomes a living nightmare. Creepy images haunt her everyday life, to the point where she's not sure whether or not she survived the crash. And to be perfectly honest, having watched the film, I'm not sure whether or not she survived the crash.

By the time Soul Survivors ends, the movie poses more questions than answers. Never before has there been a film that so obviously hates its audience. As the movie progresses, more and more unexplained elements are introduced (the guy that turns out to be a chick, the weird mask-wearing folks that are pursuing Sagemiller, etc.) which one would assume would be part of a larger storyline, one that's going to be explained by the time the flick ends. One might assume that, but one would be wrong. This is a movie so lost, so confused that it actually opens with a murder that's never referred to again.

Is there anything worthwhile about Soul Survivors? Not really, since even the performances are mediocre. Sagemiller, an apparent newcomer to the silver screen, doesn't exactly shine here. Though she isn't given decent material to work with, her performance essentially boils down to being frightened a lot. And she's not very convincing at that. Unlike, say, a Jamie Lee Curtis, she's got the scream down but she never looks scared. As for the two fellas, Bentley (this movie was filmed before American Beauty, in case you were wondering why he'd go from that to this) and Affleck don't do much except stand around and look concerned. Dushku, reprising her tough-girl role from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (so I'm told, anyway), barely injects some much-needed life into this dead zone of a movie.

Soul Survivors is, hands down, the worst "teen horror" flick to emerge since it's rebirth a few years ago (and this is a genre that's produced I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, so that's really saying something).

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