Written and Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Starring: Anita Skinner, Kurt Johnson, Robin Davidson and Caren L. Larkey
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Do you think that the creators of Final Destination and its sequels just pulled the ideas out of thin air? Think again. Seventeen years earlier, a little horror film by the name of Sole Survivor was toying with the concept of cheating death and paying the price for it. Made on a budget of only $350 000, this creepy horror was not your average film of the year. Back when splatter and slasher movies were instant moneymakers, this thrilling feature involving the undead, psychics, and stripping teenagers took a risk by trying something new. When its theatrical runs were running good, a hit had surely been made. Sadly, its Vestron Video release, equipped with a simple yet attractive cover art, made a small amount of dough, one that would scare this flick into obscurity for the next couple of decades. Until one day, in April of 2008, when its DVD would finally come into market. But was it a wise move, or does Sole Survivor's obscurity status serve itself right?
Denise Watson (Anita Skinner) is the sole survivor of a plane crash early one morning, as depicted in a former actress’ dreams – Karla Davis (Caren L. Larkey). The psychic woman knows Denise, who is involved in Karla’s current commercial shoot. She tries to warn her from taking the flight, but it is too late. The plane crashes, and Denise survives, just as in Karla’s dream. Denise, however, doesn’t feel any different, nor unworthy. Denise simply feels as if something wants to catch her. She just wants to move on with her life, but she’s finding it very difficult to administer. Creepy emotionless people are at her every turn, staring her down, walking in front of her car, and chasing her through a parking zone. Her love interest, Dr. Brian Richardson (Kurt Johnson), and her teenage neighbor, Kristy Cutler (Robin Davidson) are the only people Denise can really talk to about her odd predicament. The question arises. Was it a stroke of luck that Watson is alive? Or has this television producer cheated death? Perhaps death wants her, and if so...it won’t be long now.
A comparison between Final Destination and this 80s charmer is deeply required. While there is an entire group of teens in the modern version of escaping death, as opposed to one full grown adult in Sole Survivor, the plot is relatively the same. If you think that you won’t get caught, you’re dead wrong. The grim reaper will take you and all you love down! Don’t forget the forecast with the psychic has-been actress, Karla Davis. Though the person in peril is not receiving the premonition in Sole Survivor, it’s seen plain as day as a duplication in the seventeen years later revise. There are plane crashes in both psychic horror additions, and people are picked off in slasher fashion. It should be noted that Sole Survivor is not a slasher film though, and that the victims die by the hands of death’s minions, not supernatural accidents. For all of these similarities, it’d be a fishy thought to think that Final Destination was merely a coincidence of circumstances.
Nudity is a must! Of course, I’m just joking. However, we do see a bit of skin in Sole Survivor. Kristy and her friends are playing a stripping card game, from which I can only guess is poker. Before the lovably promiscuous activity is interrupted, we come across a pair of breasts and chests. The scene adds some light to the dark story. It’s basically Kristy and her two female friends versus a boy with an afro. It’s safe to assume that this boy, Randy (Clayton Wilcox) wasn’t going to win the competition. Another set of boobs comes from a very shocking cast member. Denise Watson herself bares all on top in a scene where she and Dr. Richardson are making love. From a decade where sex equals death, I didn’t expect both of these to come out. It certainly adds more flavor to the picture, which was already on its way to becoming more and more memorable.
For the first twenty minutes or so, Sole Survivor moves at a weak pace. While it draws you in, you’re sure that this will be another failed attempt at a serious low budget thriller. The lines are not delivered well, and the actors react poorly in response to a question or action. “What was- What was that?” If this was the original intention, it doesn’t come off as natural. As bad as the beginning deliveries are, the feature quickly turns on itself, and the performers are dedicated all of the way through. The writing is spot on, and the editing is good for the time. There are cheesy scenes, made ever more so laughable with the use of sappy scores, such as when Denise and Brian are unleashing their love to one another. A picture perfect moment. It reminded me of the seventies. That’s not the only thing. When Kristy and Denise are driving home from the hospital, a tune plays that sounds awfully familiar, sort of like a mid-seventies drama.
Both Denise and Kristy’s houses have character with wooden cabin-like exteriors, and the use of cream, green, red and other unique colors touches on the inside. The Christmas tree in Kristy’s house indicates a time to be merry, with red and yellow lights from head to toe. But enough about houses. The creepy situations Denise has to go through are far more interesting. She sees a girl in the hospital parking lot, who glares at her while dripping in water. Watson later hears from Brian about how a couple of hospital employees were dealt with after bodies were taken from their resting place. It appears to be that a little girl’s corpse had disappeared for some time. She had died in a boating accident. Denise is spooked to hear this, as is the audience. That’s the amazing thing about Sole Survivor. It’s an eerie film but without being loud about it. Monsters aren’t popping out of pools and chimneys. It’s the subtle realizations and suspenseful escapades that truly shock. I’m not scared of horror movies, but if I were to name ten that sent chills down my spine, this alarming journey would make the list, pronto.
Yay Roxy! Yay God! Kristy’s friend Roxie (Wendy Dake) comes over to Denise’s place to meet her, and she’s a mixture of a stoned out concert attender and a Christian so in touch with the Lord that she spends most of her time in another realm, rather than in this universe. I love her! Oh, did I forget about Karla? A true star; every shot she’s in is an absolute joy to watch. She’s weird, she’s quirky, and she’s in show business baby! More use of comedy involves the coffee commercial Karla is a part of, a silly TV spot that quotes the lady having coffee with Davis. “Mmmmm...!” Code Red’s DVD is in widescreen, equipped with trailers, an audio commentary and an interview with Caren L. Larkey and executive producer Sal Romeo. Though the picture is sometimes grainy, and lighting shifts from really bright to dark in a couple scenes, Sole Survivor's package is a must own title, with an ending so abrupt and straightforward, you’ll jump for joy, even if it’s depressing. The next time you hear a mysterious voice wheeze out your name at a park, or Santa Claus joins you in your elevator travels, remember: you can’t escape death. Buy it!
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