In 1962 there was a short film called "Incident at Owl Creek" made in France. That film is one of those shorts that's always shown in Beginning Filmmaking 101 as an example of creative thinking. Now, there are two types of students who digest this material. The first thinks, "Oh, that's interesting. I'll use that as inspiration." Then that student goes off and makes a film that has nothing to do with "Incident at Owl Creek." The second student thinks, "Oh, that's interesting. I'll completely rip this film off and not credit the original in a pathetic attempt to look like a genius. I have no creative thoughts of my own and don't intend to pay tribute to my favorite films, so much as give them big, sloppy cinematic blow jobs."
Clearly, writer/director Stephen Carpenter is one of the latter students. In fact, it's probable that his inspiration came from Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" and he actually had no idea that film was itself a rip-off of "Incident at Owl Creek." The concept explores the last thoughts of a dying man. Reality and the sense of time are subverted. In "Incident at Owl Creek" this isn't particularly confusing since the story in the man's mind is told as straight narrative. This wasn't good enough for Carter, who doesn't really have a story, so opts to be confusing instead. He's so obviously straining for a hip version of "The Sixth Sense" that this film is consistently painful to watch. It's less a coherent movie than a marketing campaign. It should be no shock that Carpenter got the film made in Hollywood where original ideas are about as valuable as jars of liposuctioned fat.
In "Soul Survivors" a group of friends gets in a car accident right after Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) and Matt (Wes Bentley) are caught kissing by Cassie's boyfriend, Sean (Casey Affleck). See, Matt and Cassie used to be boyfriend/girlfriend, but Matt still has "feelings" even though he's going out with their mutual friend Annabel (Eliza Dushku). All these kids actually hang out together and are supposedly friends, which is utter BS. No guy hangs out with a buddy who is screwing an old girlfriend whom he still has "feelings" for. And apparently, since Annabel is some kind of omnivorous bisexual superslut, she doesn't clue in to the fact her boyfriend is still harboring feelings for her best friend. One supposes that somewhere in film school the idea of "conflict" was explained to Carpenter, but he wasn't paying attention that day. He strains for believability like a four-year-old grasping for a cookie jar on top of a refrigerator.
The car crash results in Sean's death. Consequently, Cassie begins feeling really guilty because she was at the wheel and she starts seeing him in her dreams and soon in her waking moments. She loses the ability to discern reality and fantasy and it becomes unclear what exactly is going on. Somehow Carpenter equates confusion with style even though they're near opposites. One hopes Carpenter doesn't make these sorts of mistakes while wiping his ass or eating breakfast. And let me mention one other thing -- Dushku and Sagemiller take a shower together -- with their clothes on. WITH THEIR CLOTHES ON! I don't know what kind of cruel joke Carpenter thought he was playing on us males, but I hope his next job is a story involving Pauly Shore, Melanie Griffith and lots of incontinent chimps.
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