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Soul Survivors - The Killer Cut (2001)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Stephen Carpenter

Starring:
Melissa Sagemiller/Cassie
Casey Affleck/Sean
Wes Bentley/Matt
Eliza Dushku/Annabelle
PLOT-CRUNCH
After a violent car crash that ends somebody’s life, the driver of the vehicle, Cassie (Sagemiller), finds herself torn with guilt, seeing visions of a deceased loved one and stalked by two creepy raver goons that were also involved in the accident. What the hell is going on in this Carnival? Let the acid trip begin!
THE LOWDOWN
I already reviewed Soul Survivors here when it was theatrically released in PG-13 form, but now that the R-rated DVD release has come out, I’ve decided to write a whole new review for it. Here we go!

This R-rated version isn’t overtly different from the theatrical print but the additional footage hits where it counts. We get a new opening scene that establishes the two weird dudes as psycho killers, therefore giving them an initial motive to hunt Cassie down (the girl they kill looks a lot like her and is named Cathy, yes...a pattern). We also get more of the red stuff and a tit shot (no, not Dushku…dammit). The Theatrical Cut was 84 minutes, while this Killer Cut clocks in at about 85 minutes. Did 60 extra seconds really make a difference? For me, it did. The added gore and sexual energy gave the flick more of an edge and helped emphasize the severe nature of the situation on a deeper level. In that respect, this Cut improves on the Theatrical Cut.

From a narrative standpoint, the nightmare-like happenings went down smoother the second time around. Knowing the twist from the get-go allowed me to witness the events from another perspective. I understood them. I also finally capiched what was up with that freaky Raven (Featherstone) broad. I was totally in the dark as to her purpose the first time around. Getting exactly what was going on REALLY made a difference and I enjoyed the story more. On a human level, lovely Melissa Sagemiller (Cassie) drives this tale and your appreciation of her or not, will probably define if you’ll dig this bent ride on any level. I sympathized with her lots so I was kool in that department. Also, the emotional bond she has with Sean (Affleck) touched me on this second watch and I picked up more on the themes of loss, love and guilt that were addressed. Basically, I had a bit more meat to sink my teeth into.

Unfortunately, this Killer Cut does sport the same faults as the Theatrical Cut. The character of Matt (Bentley) and Annabelle (Dushku) are still too underdeveloped. One’s a selfish jerk who doesn’t blink while the other is a loose tramp. That's pretty much all I got out of them. But the film’s biggest flaw is that the story lacks stillness. It all feels way too rushed. Here’s an example: the transition between the accident and Cassie going on with her life. It’s too damn short. We’re not given a moment to feel for the person that died or Cassie’s disposition! As for the bulk of the movie, it’s fairly redundant and always on the move. Cassie sees things and Cassie gets chased by 2 psychos that can’t dress for shit. That combo is repeated over and over until the “surprise” conclusion. In consequence, I was never given the time to fully appreciate the hellish set pieces and they eventually lost their effect on me. How about taking a breather and concentrating on the substance instead of the flashy action for one damn second (no, the Father Jude scenes weren’t enough)? If the film would’ve taken more time outs, and spread out its stalk sequences, the whacked-out stuff would have had a stronger impact on me. Here, suspense is totally lacking and taking into account what’s going down, that’s a damn shame. I should’ve been chewing my seat in terror instead of being a passive spectator.

But overall, Soul Survivors Killer Cut still had a certain charm that got to me despite its heavy flaws. It was definitely a more rewarding experience than the PG-13 cut. The film is never boring, very atmospheric (it takes place in the fall, that’s always a plus) and bombards us with flashy colors, visuals bent on the aesthetic, eerie settings (loved the Goth club) and groovy tunes. The movie is more ambitious than your average teen fare and you have to respect that. Sure, the surprise ending is still not too hard to figure out but knowing it will not ruin your viewing pleasure. In my case, it made it better. If only the movie wasn’t in such a hurry to unravel its story. Are the studios Lucifer’s children? Let's find out…
GORE
The added gore gave the flick that kick in the ass that it needed. We get a bloody slit wrist, a mucho messy nosebleed, a kool broken neon tube stabbing with blood pouring out and a drill entering a cranium.
ACTING
Melissa Sagemiller (Cassie) carries the movie and hits all of the right emotional notes. I loved her. Casey Affleck (Sean) does the puppy dog eyes thang well and his chemistry with Sagemiller is adequate. Although his delivery is a little flat at times and he mumbles a bit too much…wake up, dude! Wes Bentley (Matt) plays an a-hole and I had a hard time giving a fudge about him. He plays his part well though. Eliza Dushku (Annabelle) plays a slut, at least I had fun drooling over her, not much of a layered part though. Angela Featherstone (Raven) is just plain creepy as the gender bending chick. Luke Wilson (Father Jude) underplays the part and it’s the way to go. Good job dude.
T & A
We get an Angela Featherstone tit shot which confirms that she’s a woman (I wasn’t sure while watching the Theatrical Cut). We also get Eliza Dushku making out with Angela and some lesbian overtones (all about that bathroom scene). The ladies get a Wes Bentley butt shot…I wonder where he works out?
DIRECTING
Carpenter goes haywire on this one. Crazy angles, tight cuts, flashy colors, mucho dream-like images and a relentless pace. I really enjoyed the man’s eye. Too bad the studio messed with his vision. When are they going to learn that they’re not filmmakers? ARRRRGH! How frustrating.
SOUNDTRACK
I really dug the moody score by Daniel Litcht especially during the Sean/Cassie scenes. I didn’t mind the “soundtrack selling” pop/rock tracks either.
DVD FEATURES
This very well put together DVD sports one of the koolest animated menus that I’ve seen in a while. We get three options: reality, dream and nightmare that bring us to the main menu in flashy ways corresponding to the specific title chosen. The rest of the DVD also holds up.

IMAGE: The 16.9 Widescreen image is spotless and the colors popped out of screen. Solid transfer.

SOUND: The 5.1 Dolby Digital had the tunes invading my room in a clear fashion. We also get a 2.1 Dolby Stereo Sound option.

Scene Select Commentary by Melissa Sagemiller: We get 6 scenes (although the intro doesn’t really count so make it 5) with the charming Melissa Sagemiller giving us some insight on the locations, the shoot, dealing with the fake blood/ prosthetics, how physically demanding the film was and the themes behind the action. I found this extra interesting, but then again, I have a "thing" for Melissa and just having her reading the phone book would’ve pleased me.

Deleted Scenes: Here we get three deleted scenes: Funeral For a Friend (we saw some of it in the PG-13 cut and we get like two frames of it in this cut), Telephone Call and Saying Goodbye (basically a better alternate ending). The sound is pretty bad here so jack up that volume! In my opinion, all three scenes should’ve been kept in the picture. They all would’ve brought more substance and stillness to the film. It’s nice to see that those scenes existed though. Why didn’t they edit them back in?? What's the point of a Killer Cut if all the scenes aren’t edited back in??? Still a kool extra though.

The Making of Soul Survivors: This 4-minute reel is more a slickly put together promotional capsule than a “making of” but it was still gnarly to hear the cast comment on the film, their characters’ positions in the story and their opinions on the film. Groovy.

Living Dangerously: The Art Of Harvey Danger: I’m not sure if this is a joke or if it's true, but this 10-minute capsule has some band (Harvey Danger) that has a song in the movie claiming that the production company stole their idea for "Soul Survivors" and they proceed to bitch and moan about it. If it’s a mockumentory, it’s not funny. If it’s true…I really didn’t give a damn. Talk about irritating dudes! Skip this extra...it’s a waste of space.

Animated Storyboards: This groovy feature has three scenes (The Accident, Library Rendez-Vous, Missing Persons) unroll before our eyes in storyboard mode with background noises and then the actual scene is shown for us to compare. Well put together and amusing.

We also get 2 Theatrical Trailers for the film, a Trailer Gallery (BW2 - Ninth Gate - Stir Of Echoes - Van Wilder - Mangler 2), a Cast and Crew Bio and Production Notes.

Artisan gave this film the royal treatment. This is a quality DVD!
BOTTOM LINE
Call me an a-hole but I had fun this second time around. There’s just something about this puppy that really appeals to me. I can’t stress enough how understanding the movie made it so much better. This Killer Cut is superior to the PG-13 Cut and I definitely caught more glimpses of the solid movie that it should’ve been this time around. But sadly, the studio’s butchering/editing interference is still heavily felt. There’s more than one battle going on in this film yo! When will studios understand that we can handle a flick that takes the time to explore its SUBSTANCE! I still dug "Soul Survivors" but can’t help but wonder how it would’ve turned out if the director actually had full control of his vision. I’m still waiting for THE REAL Soul Survivors DIRECTOR’S CUT but I highly doubt it will ever see the light in its intended form. We’ll have to settle with this cut.
BULL'S EYE
I saw the flick "Carnival Of Souls" after I saw "Soul Survivors" at the movies. I can now firmly state that "Soul Survivors" is, without a doubt, a teen update of the 60’s cult classic. The similarities are too abundant to ignore.

"Soul Survivors" was finally released on September 7th, 2001 in about 600 theatres. Here’s all the released dates it went through before its release: September 14th, 2001 (the release eventually got moved up), September 28th, 2001, August 24th, 2001, March 16th, 2001, January 19th, 2001, September 15th, 2000…SHEESH!
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