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 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.
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.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5