Soul Survivors (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Complete Spoilers.

What a scam.

Despite a respectable cast, Soul Survivors was a poorly received film. Of the few critics that saw it, most hated it. The moviegoing public felt about the same way. The studio apparently realized that the film stunk it up. After sinking more than ten million simoleans into this project, they didn't promote it, they didn't pre-screen it for critics, and they released it in the post-summer lull two full years after it was filmed, where it bombed as expected, and as it justly deserved.

It's a story which follows the same general conventions as The Others or Jacob's Ladder, in that it is not apparent to viewers which characters are alive and which dead. Melissa Sagemiller plays a young woman who is driving the car when she and three of her friends crash into another car, which has three occupants. Her boyfriend dies in the accident, and it appears that she can't deal with her sense of loss. She keeps seeing him, as if he were alive, and he keeps beckoning her to come with him. Meanwhile, she keeps seeing the three people from the other car, and they are trying to kill her. And then she sees her two friends from the back seat of her car talking to the three from the other car, and they duck behind corners when they see her coming.  Nothing seems to make sense.

She says "I don't want to die", but her boyfriend mysteriously responds, "you will die if you don't come with me"

Well, he wasn't kidding. About five minutes into the main thread of the movie, he revealed the whole surprise. You see, Melissa was in the hospital fighting for life, the boyfriend lived, and the other five died. While she was either still in the hospital or hallucinating from post-traumatic brain injuries, he was actually a live person calling her back to the living, not a dead man calling her to the land of the dead, as we were originally led to believe.

As my main man Count Floyd, would say "Pretty scary, eh, kids?  Arooooooooooooooooooo!"


Angela Featherstone was briefly topless in a lesbian sex scene with Eliza Dushku, and then again on the morgue table.

Melissa Sagemiller did appear in a pair of panties which were partially transparent, and topless from angles where nothing was visible.

Dushku showed nothing more than a "near nip-slip"

Wes Bentley showed his butt.

Ho-hum. Been there, done that, forgot most of it. Actually, the premise is OK, if a bit shopworn, but the execution was poor. There must be 25 minutes of repetitive chase scenes. It's assembled in an irritatingly incompetent and apparently haphazard manner. (For example, we saw her struggling on the operating table in the middle of another scene. What other explanation could there be for cutting the hospital footage into the other scene other than to show that the spooky stuff was completely in her mind? Furthermore, even after watching the film all the way through, then viewing it a second time, I still don't have any idea why they included the opening scene.)

Worst of all, they don't end the movie on the operating table, where it should end. Instead, there is a gratuitous scene at the end where she leaves the hospital, is attacked yet again by the spooky guys, then wakes up in bed with the boyfriend. It was all a dream. Well, what the hell was a dream? The entire movie? Only the part after the hospital? Only the part after the accident? We don't know. It is a frustrating and unsatisfying ending, and completely ruined what little the movie had going for it.

But all that is not why I called it a scam. The Big Rip is that they knew this movie stunk and that they'd never sell or rent any DVD's with what they had, so they tried to oversell the salaciousness of the DVD's restored footage. This was an R-rated movie that the director cut to PG-13 to get the teen audience. The DVD is rated R again, and the box says "The Killer Cut. The version you weren't allowed to see on the big screen. More blood! More sex! More terror than the theatrical release!" Of course, that verbiage was why I picked the damned thing up.

Sounded good to me. I figured maybe Eliza Dushku gave Sagemiller an advanced lesson in sword-swallowing, or maybe some bodies were sliced and diced and made into Julienne Fries. Or maybe there was hot sex involving a tub of Turtle Wax and a Popeil Pocket Fisherman.

Let me be the first to tell you that it doesn't deliver very much on that promise. I don't know what was in the theatrical release, but if you're expecting lots of gore and terror and sex, forget it. The two female stars even take a shower fully dressed. What's that all about?

So what did they cut for the theatrical version? There is a brief lesbian scene between Eliza Dushku and Angela Featherstone - in which Featherstone's toplessness lasts about six frames, and later there is an almost invisible Featherstone nipple on a morgue table. I don't think there could be much of anything else. If this version includes additional salacious material, then the theatrical release could have been mistaken for "Sound of Music II, Edelweiss Blooms Anew". There are three deleted scenes on the DVD, in addition to the expanded "killer cut", but there is nothing of lurid interest in the deleted material, either.

In fact, the credits start to roll only 79 minutes after the opening bell, and nothing happens for the first 11 minutes, which includes a seemingly unrelated preface, the opening credits, and a bunch of as-yet-unidentified kids dancing at a goth heavy metal club. So what you have here is 85 minutes - your basic 68 minute movie with about 17 minutes of credits. And that is supposedly the expanded DVD cut. Worse yet, remember that about 25 minutes of that consists of chase scenes, with the same spooky guys chasing her again and again, and the first minute or two has nothing to do with the rest of the film!

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, r-rated version

  • scene-specific commentary track by the star

  • "making of" featurette

  • two other featurettes

  • deleted scenes

If this cut is the result of expansion, then the theatrical cut is apparently not much longer than a trailer. Think Sound of Music with only one song.

Hopefully not that one about edelweiss.

Not that I would want this film to go on any longer, because it is just not any good. How did they rope Wes Bentley, Luke Wilson, and Eliza Dushku into this?

(NOTE: All kidding aside, for those who care about the facts, the IMDb lists the running time as 84 minutes for the theatrical cut, while the DVD cut is 85 minutes.)

The Critics Vote

  • Consensus: one and a half stars. Apollo 54/100, BBC 2/5, 1/5

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 3.1/10, Apollo users 72/100
  • with their dollars ... a miserable bomb. The studio spent $14 million on the film, it grossed $3 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Weak film, but with adequate production values.

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