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Soul Survivors: The Killer Cut

When a movie sits around completed and in the can for a year, one never gets impression it will age like fine wine. And surely Artisan wasn't thinking that Soul Survivors was being uncorked before its time when they shuffled its release dates for a couple of months — only to eventually leak it across theaters during a brief theatrical run during the fall of 2001. Once the final cut was handed in on Soul Survivors, the producers must have known they knew they had a turkey — even with hot young actors like Eliza Dushku, Wes Bentley, Luke Wilson and (cough) Casey Affleck in the cast. And though the cover art and trailer sell the film as a Scream-like slasher film, it is actually a Jacob's Ladder-inspired tale of mental confusion. Rebecca Sagemiller stars as Cassie, who arrives at her new college campus and goes to a party with her best friends from high school. While there, she kisses old boyfriend Matt (Bentley) for the last time, only to be seen doing it by her current boyfriend — and possible soulmate — Sean (Affleck); the ensuing car ride home with Sean is filled with tensions that lead to Cassie running into a group of drunken students. Sean dies in the wreck, and while recuperating with the help of Matt and best-friend/Goth-bisexual Annabel (Dushku), Cassie sees strange, violent people in masks, and she is plagued by visions of Sean. Only a mysterious priest named Jude (Wilson) seems to give her comfort — but he too may be an illusion. As a rule, the mind-bender film genre works best if one is fooled from the outset and the revelation is the resolution of the story. But in Soul Survivors, the moment something hinky starts happening is when one figures that writer/director Stephen (no relation to John) Carpenter is thinking "If I make the editing and pacing weird, people will be kept unhinged and nervous about what's real and what's illusion." But he's wrong — instead of being creepy and strange, the film is sloppy and awkward. Artisan's Soul Survivors: The Killer Cut DVD release presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 , and bumps up the rating to a more horror-friendly R, adding a minute of sex and violence (but nothing of substance) to the movie. Extras consist of selected audio commentary by Sagemiller (covering about 30 minutes of the film), five minutes worth of cut scenes, the original featurette, a 10-minute documentary on the band Harvey Danger (who goof on how one of their songs is in the film for 45 seconds), cast/crew and production notes, and trailers for this and other Artisan horror films. Keep-case.

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