I had never seen SOLE SURVIVOR up until a week ago. I had heard about the film and vaguely recalled it from video store shelves during my adolescent years, but I knew little about it. That is until two of my horror colleagues, Chris Alexander of Shock Till You Drop and Elric Kane of Killer POV, both within the same week spoke about how influential and scary the film was. That was all I needed, and I immediately hunted down this lesser-known horror gem.
It is wonderfully refreshing to know that, after having seen the bulk of the movies throughout horror history, I can still find an amazing flick I have never seen before and be reinvigorated and inspired by it, thanks to the recommendations of my fellow horror geeks. Below I have listed 5 reasons that horror fans need to see (or revisit) SOLE SURVIVOR.
It is Deeply Influential on Future Horror Films
The movie focuses on a young woman who is the only survivor of a tragic plane crash. Immediately after being discharged from the hospital, she begins getting the feeling like she is in danger, seeing strange people following her or watching her. Though her doctor and friends are convinced she is suffering from “survivor syndrome,” where people feel guilt for having survived when all others perished, it soon becomes clear that “death” is not happy she escaped his grasped and is sending recently deceased bodies after her to dispatch her.
There is an obvious influence for FINAL DESTINATION, which has a very similar plot and set-up, but I must agree with Elric Kane, my co-host on Killer POV, that the biggest influence seems to be on the recent film, IT FOLLOWS. Though the plot mirrors FINAL DESTINATION, SOLE SURVIVOR features endless scenes of creepy, unknown people just staring at our main character or walking towards her with blank faces. It is a chilling effect, and one that was utilized heavily in IT FOLLOWS.
It’s F’n Scary!
Just as IT FOLLOWS has extremely startling moments as the main character is doing mundane tasks and then suddenly catches sight of a dead-eyed beings walking towards her, this movie does the same thing…but several decades earlier. The movie also packs in some nice jump scares and a very startling soundtrack to match the continuously heightened tone. And there is still plenty of gore including an extended shot of a man (well, half a man) with ample exposed organs…then his eyes open!
It Defied Trends
SOLE SURVIVOR came out in 1983 at a time when the slasher craze and sequel boom were just starting to take off. SOLE SURVIVOR is unlike anything else that was released at this time, which likely explains why it was rather disregarded and still relatively unknown today. Folks just didn’t know what to do with it or how to market it within the larger horror genre. The box cover they used makes it look almost like an alien flick. But, there is something wonderful about how horror history eventually circled back to it.
The Movie Takes Its Time…Beautifully
It was the 80s. We wanted our colors brightly neon, our clothes bedazzled, our hair big, and everything to be fast-moving. Yet, this film is slow. Not slow as in boring. The film definitely keeps the chilling tension building throughout, but it is not in a huge rush to get to the next killing. It is more Hitchcockian in the manner of how the story unfolds. Oh it’s scary as hell, but it extends and stretches the terror rather than constantly throwing new kills at you.
There is a Snazzy Code Red Edition
From what I have heard from other fans, this film was incredibly hard to locate for decades, popping-up only as well-worn VHS copies and washed-out bootlegs. The recent Code Red DVD is rather gorgeous and worth spending a couple extra ducats on. Plus, there are ample bonus features.
How To See it: I will forewarn you that this title is still notoriously difficult to procure and requires a bit of patience. It is listed as “out of print” by Code Red on their website. But every few days a used copy appears for sale on either Amazon or eBay. I was able to score mine off eBay for just $20.