Soul Survivors

2001, Movie, PG-13, 85 mins


CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) meets Felicity in this teen-oriented horror picture that aims for psychological suspense rather than gory scares. College freshmen Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) and Sean (Casey Affleck) are facing their first separation: She's going to small-town Middleton College and he's heading off to school in California. Cassie's best friend Annie (Eliza Dushku) is also attending Middleton, while boyfriend Matt (Wes Bentley) — who's Cassie's ex and Sean's best friend — is a Harvard man. The boys drive the girls to school and the quartet decide to check out a wild club Annie's heard about: It's housed in a spooky old church and the writhing regulars look like lost souls in leather, but the kids have a blast until it's time to leave. Matt kisses Cassie, Sean sees the smooch, and the atmosphere in the car is so filled with tension that designated driver Cassie isn't watching the road as carefully as she ought to be. Then another car, carrying three creepy club-goers, cuts in front of them on the rain-slicked road and comes to a dead stop. When Cassie awakes after the inevitable accident, she learns that Sean is dead. Or is he? Cassie returns to school a few weeks later, and becomes convinced she's seeing Sean on campus. She's also seeing the two men who were in the other car — a scarred thug and a guy wearing a clear plastic mask — and Annie is hanging around with the third passenger, androgynous Raven (Angela Featherstone). Matt takes time off from his classes to help Cassie get back on her feet, but he's acting strangely; there's even something odd about Father Jude (Luke Wilson), the kindly priest who offers Cassie spiritual advice. Despite the handsome production values and best efforts of the attractive young cast, it's hard to get deeply involved with the frantic "what's going on?" sturm und drang. It should be pretty clear to any horror movie regular exactly what's going on long before the big "surprise" twist spells it out. This film marks writer-director Steve Carpenter's return to genre filmmaking; he wrote and co-directed 1981's THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, a formulaic stalk-and-slash picture that nevertheless clearly helped inspire Kevin Williamson's SCREAM (1996). leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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