Sole Survivor

I get very down on Netflix. It has a very few good movies, almost just to say it has some, but the vast majority of what you’re faced with is a lot of very mediocre movies, and that can bring you down. Plus, the reality of having access to hundreds of mediocre movies at ones fingertips… it can put you off watching movies at all and it devalues the few good ones that are on there. This is all by way of saying that the other night I went to the video store saying “I am going to rent a movie I WANT to see, and I’m going to search until I find a fun 80s horror film that I haven’t seen.” That’s how I ended up with this, which bills itself as a precursor to Final Destination, and looked very low-budget and fun, which it was, although it is also quite slow and atmospheric and not really all that scary.

The deal is that our heroine Denise is the sole survivor of a plane crash. This is handled nicely on a low budget in an evocative shot of her strapped into an airplane seat that’s just sitting in the middle of a pile of flaming wreckage, looking down on a guy’s severed torso. She starts dating a doctor who treated her, and encounters an actress who can’t get through a commercial without staring at her [Denise works at a TV studio]. Things all just coast on a bit weird for a while, with nothing really happening, which can be fine if you’re just into watching the film unfold. It also helps if you like that 70s/80s low-budget vibe, because the whole film is suffused with it. There was a certain musical sting—impossible to describe in words—but it was so wonderfully 70s that it’s like comfort food, no matter how bad the movie is.

But it’s not bad, it’s just so low-budget that it comes off as very odd, and the lack of budget results in a very sparse, barely-populated film with a slow pace and lot of atmosphere resulting from that low budget. Particular to this film are a lot of sets that are clearly not what their supposed to be, such as a motel room doubling as a hospital room, with a hospital bed wheeled in, while the impression of the regular bed is clearly visible in the shag carpeting. One also senses that the lack of name actors or experienced filmmakers added to the slow, off-kilter but engrossing energy and pacing of the film.

So it would hap, just like in Final Destination, that Denise was supposed to die in the crash, and now death has it out for her. Only, in this case, it results in recently-dead people coming and trying to kill her. This ramps up considerably in the second half, as not a lot happens in the first half. The overall tone is most similar to Carnival of Souls, where something traumatic has happened to the heroine, and she is cast into a weird world in which she can’t tell what’s up, but something is clearly not quite right. Not to mention that strange, possibly dead people are staring at her. Anyway, the scares ramp up in the last 30 minutes, but throughout the whole thing is pretty sedate.

There’s a little interview with a an actress [not the lead] and a producer, and I didn’t watch all of it, but they mentioned that the director wanted to make a film and they knew they could do a horror film on a low budget… and it kind of put me in mind that now, while nearly everyone can make a movie of some kind and get it online, we’re no longer in that special age when a complete non-professional decides to get a bunch of people together and make his own idiosyncratic horror film—say like a George Romero—and there are so few films like it that it ends up getting seen in theaters and is preserved years later. As opposed to now, when it’s much less of a big deal to make an movie, and there are so many additional outlets with mediocre horror that is widely available, it’s just so generic and common that no one wants to watch it. Which brings us back to Netflix.


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