Friday, October 15, 2010

SOLE SURVIVOR (1983)

Often cited as a precursor to the FINAL DESTINATION films (even by its own video box cover—"no one thinks I'm special!!"), SOLE SURVIVOR is a modestly rewarding slow-burner. The film's pacing recalls the post-crash that opens our tale, with lots of confused stumbling around and things being uncovered so lackadaisically that you'd have to speed up to stop. Despite the image below (admittedly pretty radical), this is not your movie if you are in a gore mood.
Aging actress Karla Davis (Caren Larkey) has a premonition of a plane crash in which TV producer-esque person Denise Watson (Anita Skinner) is the only survivor. And so it happens! Denise becomes romantically entangled with a handsome doctor (Kurt Johnson), then becomes postmortally entangled with dead people, who show up everywhere—in the road, at her house, on a loading dock. Seems Death didn't take too kindly to her sole surviving ways and has sent his/her emissaries to collect her.
I won't lie to you, Internet friends, parts of this film are quite bad. Some of the acting would be a disappointment in your average sixth grade Christmas play, much less in a serious film. And the tempo is just brain-killingly slow at times. But there are bright spots. Anita Skinner is one of the brightest and it's sort of weird that she apparently only did this film and 1978's GIRLFRIENDS. She handles the light comedic moments of this movie with appropriate zest (kinda reminds me of a less bony Shelley Long, actually) and does well at scream-queening, too. She's LOTS of fun to watch. SOLE SURVIVOR's humor is obviously less abrasive and punk rawk than FINAL DEST, but I really enjoyed the weirdo moments like the scene below.
In a way, this movie is a hybrid of two other films—FINAL D, of course, and CARNIVAL OF SOULS—and both of them accomplish their goals far better than SOLE SURVIVOR. It's competent, but outclassed and overshadowed by its antecedent and descendant. The John Tyler of post-disaster movies.
#16 of 31.

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