Take a little bit of Night of the Living Dead, add a pinch of Unbreakable, throw in a generous scoop of Final Destination and mix. Sprinkle on some Chloe Sevigny and Brinke Stevens. Bake at 1983 degrees for 85 minutes and voila! You've got Sole Survivor!
That's got to be the worst opening paragraph for a review ever, but I can't help it- I'm hungry. This is what happens when I review on an empty stomach. I apologize...bear with me.
Anita Skinner (aka "Wow, she looks a lot like Chloe Sevigny") stars as Denise Watson, a television ad exec who recently came away from a plane crash no worse for the wear aside from a sore shoulder. Yes, folks, Denise is...the sole survivor! She claims not to feel any survivor's guilt- in fact, she feels great that she's so damn lucky.
Things start to get oogy for Denise almost immediately upon her leaving the hospital, however. Clammy, pale-looking people like to stand around and stare at her, giving off a decidedly morbid vibe. After a series of near-accidents- a runaway truck almost runs her over, and one of those clammy, pale-looking types pops up in the middle of the road, causing Denise to swerve into the gutter- washed-up, boozin' actress Karla Davis (Caren Larkey) tells Denise that while she may have cheated Death, he will surely even the score! Death is pissed! Death will come after not only Denise, but also anyone who gets in his way and he'll off anyone who's hip to his plan! Karla fancies herself a bit of a psychic, you see, and the hooch only serves to enhance her powers of perception. Hooch is magic that way. I know that I'm much more open to the ways of the universe and nature after a raging make-out session with a pitcher of sangria.
At any rate, you might be thinking to yourself "Say, Sole Survivor sure sounds an awful lot like Final Destination. Isn't that interesting?", or you might be thinking "Mmm, sangria sounds good. I think I'll look up a recipe for it on The Internet right after I'm done reading this review." Hey, for all I know, you might even be thinking something completely unrelated, like you might be ruminating on the fact that Lionel Richie is really popular in Iraq, or you might be thinking about Folger's crystals, or you might be thinking "Why the fuck am I wearing this shirt?" or "What if God was one of us?" or "Golly, that 'What if God was one of us'? song was annoying, but holy crap not nearly as annoying as that 'Dear Mr Jesus' song by that five-year-old. Isn't it funny when America gets swept up in strange fads, or odd songs become hits, and then America sort of snaps out of it and acts like it never happened? Like, you know, take The Macarena. Everyone was soooo into The Macarena, and the song was all over the radio and the video was everywhere and everybody learned the dance. Then one day, it seemed as if the country stopped cold and was like 'Wait, wait, wait...what the fuck are we doing?!' and then The Macarena went away as if it never even existed. I bet you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would admit to being into The Macarena, but it was so damn popular, someone I know must have liked it."
My point is, yes, Sole Survivor is undoubtedly a precursor to Final Destination, but the execution is quite different. Whereas the Final Destination films are full of elaborate, Rube Goldbergian set pieces in which Death claims his victims, in Sole Survivor Death doesn't want to get his hands dirty. Instead, the recently deceased- not necessarily the victims of the plane crash, even- are reanimated and act as Death's super zombie hitman squad. As Karla said, anyone who "gets in the way" is fair game here, and the zombies use any means necessary to get to Denise and, basically, eliminate witnesses. Yup, like I said, Death is a big ol' jerk.
It's an interesting concept, to be certain, and one aspect I especially liked is that the zombies aren't a figment of Denise's imagination- they're right there, standing by the side of the road for all to see. Because they're freshly dead, they're simply assumed by the unknowing to be a bit strange, which means we don't have to suffer through countless scenes of our protagonist trying to tell everyone about her problem while everyone accuses her of being crazy.
Unfortunately, there's one big fat problem with this movie: the zombies manage to kill some people easily enough, such as Denise's awesome braces-clad neighbor Kristy (Robin Davidson). Kristy drives a Camaro and listens to disco on a reel-to-reel. She hangs out with Brinke Stevens. I want to be Kristy.
When the zombies see Denise, however, all they manage to do is stand and stare. Obviously you don't want to kill off your main character until the end of the film (if at all), but still...the zombies would get within arm's reach of Denise and then...they'd stare. And then Denise would leave.
Writer/director Thom Eberhardt crafted an interesting, moody piece of seldom-seen horror that's definitely worth seeking out if you can handle a movie with a sloooooooooow pace. The characters are likable, there's some choice dialogue, and the vibe is fairly creepy. There's tension throughout, for we all know that death's minions will most likely catch up with Denise; the fun is trying to figure out how, and in Sole Survivor the payoff is a pretty good one.
Now which one of you was into The Macarena?