Friday, April 18, 2014

Soul Survivors

It's been absolute hell here on Fanning Island where we're still shooting Celebrity Survivor. Not only is there next to nothing to eat (I finally lost that five pounds that's been bothering me for the last year or so), but the weather has also deteriorated beyond belief. Day after day of tropical rainstorm which has turned our little village of tiki huts into a mud wallow. We did have some fun when Belle Poitrine and Ginger Grant got into an argument over a particularly fine conch that washed up on the beach. The impromptu mud wrestling match caused quite a commotion and was, fortunately, captured on film so it should be quite the highlight of the series.

The continued rain, has, of course, kept me from using my solar powered laptop and DVD player so I have not been able to check in with you, my darling fans, quite as regularly as I would wish. We finally got a few hours of sun this afternoon so I dragged myself out of the hut, washed my hair with one of the bottles of 'Lesterene' brand pineapple, apricot and goose liver shampoo I had managed to secrete in the folds of my robe, before finishing off the rest of the bottle as a mid morning snack. Spread on dried coconut rind, it makes quite the canapé. I shall inform my caterer when I return. Later today, we have another challenge coming up. We're supposed to work together as a team to create a functional hair and nail salon using only found objects. I've already made a quite nice manicure board out of coral and bamboo.

While waiting for that contest to start, I took advantage of the sun to fire up the lap top and put on a film. As I'm barely hanging on to the ragged edge of survival, I decided to watch a film that might teach me a thing or two about surviving. I was quite pleased to find the movie, Soul Survivors in my to view pile and popped it into the machine hoping to learn a thing or two. I was disappointed as there was a dearth of tropics in the film, which seemed to be taking place at one of the smaller colleges in upstate New York.

Soul Survivors is a film from 2001 starring a blond airhead named Melissa Sagemiller as the eighteen year-old Cassie. Cassie is heading off to college, accompanied by her angelic boyfriend, Sean (Casey Affleck), her ex-boyfriend, Matt (Wes Bentley) and her best girlfriend, Annabel (Eliza Dushku). After a dreary scene of advice from her parents, which plays like a bad updating of Polonius and Laertes, off goes the quartet, preparing to enter life as young adults, bickering with various psychosexual tensions which are supposed to be profound, but aren't. In order to celebrate, our lead players decide to spend the night at some sort of Goth rave where a lot of tattooed extras are gyrating in an abandoned church.

At the party, Cassie starts to feel that weird people in masks are stalking her, and Annabel starts to release her inner bad girl with the androgynous Raven (Angela Featherstone). There's some fighting and the now embittered and possibly drunk foursome head home, pursued by the strange guys. There is a car accident, one of them is killed (but just who is dead is a little unclear, as the corpse keeps turning up and having conversations with the others.) Cassie then seems to enter some sort of alternate reality during which she keeps running into the baddies, flashes back to the emergency room after the accident, ends up communing with a dead priest (Luke Wilson) and there's various arty shots of gore and some minimal discreet nudity.

By the end of the film, I was completely confused as to who was alive, who was dead, and just what the hell was going on. I think the film was supposed to be a teen variation on The Sixth Sense where the boundaries between life and death are somewhat blurred, but that film had a narrative logic that this one completely lacks. Some of that may be due to editing. This film runs less than ninety minutes. There may be twenty minutes on a cutting room floor somewhere which might tie it all together, but somehow I doubt it.

The lead players are all competent actors, some of whom (Eliza Dushku, Luke Wilson, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck) have done excellent work in the past in other projects. Why they would sign for this piece of tripe is unclear, unless the script they signed for and the script that was filmed are two different animals. Writer/director Scott Carpenter has a decent visual eye (a lot of the shots of the college campus in the fall are absolutely lovely) but no ability to construct character or realistic situation. His delicate compositions of weathered stone buildings and orange leaved maple trees keep being blocked by stupid people saying and doing stupid things. In the lead, Melissa Sagemiller runs around looking confused for an hour and a half. I can't blame her; with this script, I'd look confused too. The supporting players aren't given enough to do. Eliza Dushku comes across best with her bad girl but it's a part she's played a number of times before. I kind of liked Luke Wilson's priest, but I wasn't at all sure what he was doing in the film. Wes Bentley, who seems to be on a career trajectory from young leading man to complete obscurity, looks great, especially without clothes, but seems to be doing another riff on his Ricky Fitts from American Beauty.

This is a film to watch with the sound on sotto voce when you're doing something much more vital, like alphabetizing your spice rack. It will, hopefully, quickly fade from the resumes of its young stars.

Plastic mask. Emergency room mayhem. Church flash pots. Exam bloody nose. Bloody shower drain. Gratuitous apartment painting three way. Molesting priest. Library sex. Gratuitous androgyne.

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