Sole Survivor (DVD)

Sole Survivor DVD (click for larger image)Reviewed by Tristan Sinns

Starring Anita Skinner, Kurt Johnson, Robin Davidson, Caren L. Larkey, Andrew Boyer

Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Distributed by Code Red DVD

We’ve all heard stories about the lone survivor of the airplane or train crash; the individual who somehow escapes the hand of death often to be somehow stalked by the Grim Reaper later on. Sometimes they’re warned by a psychic that they must stay off of the plane, and sometimes they themselves are the psychic. This well-recycled urban myth was most recently put in the spotlight by the Final Destination films, which begins its franchise with a variation of the very same tale. However before Final Destination, there was a much earlier film, and it’s one that is arguably a little better.

Denise Watson (Skinner) somehow miraculously survives a brutal plane crash that leaves everyone else on board torn to pieces. She puts her life back together assisted by the support (and interest) of her friendly and handsome doctor, as well as from the help of neighbors and friends, only to find things just aren’t quite right. She begins to spot occasional zombie-like strangers staring at her from afar; only to find soon after that these are people that should be headed for the cemetery.

Sole Survivor DVD (click for larger image)Sole Survivor shares a thematic difference with the Final Destination franchise, but death’s methods here are a little more ghastly and not designed around the orchestrated facade of chance. Anyone that dies near Denise immediately revives from the dead with the intent of reclaiming her life for the underworld; the walking dead are assassins sent by Death! Sole Survivor also includes a fun twist in that Death also targets anyone smart enough to figure out what’s going on; the Grim Reaper must always protect its secrets!

The pacing and restraint of this film is well done and effective. It does have its moments of blood and gore, such as in the early shots of the gut strewn airplane crash, but it also achieves a smart restraint that encourages a tense mood and atmosphere. The scares are often kept simple, such as a well placed shadow falling at just the right time, before lurching into the third act assaults from the undead. The dead themselves are creepy, open-mouth, staring-contest winners that look like distant cousins of the old classic Carnival of Souls, which is another film that bears some resemblance.

Sole Survivor DVD (click for larger image)The DVD release of the film includes a fairly generous amount of extras. It includes the obligatory commentary track with actress Caren Larkey and producer Sal Romeo, which is moderated by film historian Jeff McKay and director Jeff Burr. Also included is the original trailer as well as the liner notes. Especially entertaining is a small collection of other Code Red film trailers; these trailers are especially hysterical in their Grindhouse appeal and should greatly humor enthusiasts.

Besides the commentary, there is also a video interview with Larkey and Romeo, and this is an interesting insight into the film. I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for them as they discussed how no one ever made a cent from this film, and then the interviewer went on to talk about how successful the Final Destination films had been. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. Here’s hoping this DVD release earns them some belated and deserved revenue. Have fun.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary by star Caren Larkey and producer Sal Romeo, moderated by film historian Jeff McKay and cult director Jeff Burr
  • Video interview with Caren Larkey and Sal Romeo
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Code Red Trailers
  • Liner notes by Stephen Thrower

    4 out of 5

    Special Features
    4 out of 5

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  • Mike Phalin

    Since 1997, Michael Patrick Phalin has been a contributing writer to various websites including Dread Central, iMockery, Bloody Disgusting and KrytenSyxx. During the early 1980s, Phalin's love of the movie industry was fueled by the VHS tapes he found during his time spent at the video rental store his mother worked at. Rather than attending a daycare regularly, young Michael would form a tower of tapes with interesting cover art and go watch each one, the very first of these being the original 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.' From that point he was hooked on horror and the process behind creating special effects. In his twenties, Mike met Steve 'Uncle Creepy' Barton and was soon aiding the horror website Dread Central with film reviews. As the site grew in popularity, Phalin soon started writing news stories and conducting interviews on a daily basis. After a few years, he decided to take a break from writing to focus on other opportunities. After moving to a beach community with his wife Michelle, both were cast to appear in the final season of A&E's home improvement show 'Fix This Yard' in 2013. This event rekindled Mike's love of the entertainment industry. Between the time he spends being with his family, Michael continues to contribute to Dread Central both with writing and photography. In his mid-thirties, Phalin took up oil painting after being inspired by an episode of Bob Ross. Pieces of his artwork and photography can be found on his Tumblr and official website.