• Sole Survivor

    Released by: Code Red Releasing
    Released on: August 27th, 2017.
    Director: Thom Eberhardt
    Cast: Anita Skinner, Kurt Johnson, Caren Larkey, Robin Davidson, Brinke Stevens, Randy Stripling
    Year: 1983
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    The Movie:

    The directorial debut of Thom Eberhardt (who would later direct Night Of The Comet), Sole Survivor opens with a scene where a hard drinking psychic/actress named Karla Davis (Caren Larkey) calls TV commercial producer Denise Watson (Anita Skinner) and gives her a warning about a flight she’s about to take. Sure enough, that plane crashes but Denise, Dee Dee to her friends, somehow survives when everyone else onboard is killed.

    After some therapy, her doctor, Brian Richardson (Kurt Johnson), discharges her – but hey, they’re both single and clearly attracted to one another, before you know it they’ve hopped in the sack and seem to really enjoy one another’s company outside of hospital hours. Things start to get odd for Dee Dee when she sees a strange, disheveled looking old man at a park, then another old man in the middle of the road – and while she realizes this is odd, she goes on with her life, even crashing a party across the road where her teenaged friend Kristy (Robin Davidson) is drinking Heineken and playing strip poker with her friends (one of whom is topless Brinke Stevens).

    During all of this, Dee Dee can’t quite shake the feeling that something is wrong – those strange men she’s seen a few times tie into this, and Karla of all people is growing increasingly concerned that death is still coming for Dee Dee…

    Sole Survivor is very much a ‘slow burn’ in that it is quite deliberate in its pacing. It opens with a pretty gory plane crash but from there, pushes the horror elements to the background and instead focuses on character development. This, understandably, becomes more important later in the film as once Dee Dee’s relationship with Brian is established it means enough for the pay off at the end to work, but those expecting something more akin to a slasher film or a gory creature feature might be taken aback by the pacing. Having said that, the film absolutely rewards attentive viewers by building to a genuinely eerie and unsettling finale.

    Solid performances anchor this. Anita Skinner has only one other film credit to her resume, 1978’s Girlfriends, but she makes for a likeable leading lady, she’s believable enough in the part to make it work. She has a very human sort of on screen chemistry with Kurt Johnson, who passed away at thirty-three years of age only two years after this picture was filmed. He’ll look familiar to those who have seen Ghost Story and the Lauren Bacall/James Garner film The Fan as he had supporting roles in both of those pictures. Brinke Stevens really only shows up to get topless, but few will complain about that, while Caren Larkey took some time off and then returned to film and TV work in the 2000’s, recently playing a supporting part in Get Out. She too is very good in her part, she plays the troubled psychic drunk character quite well!

    While clearly made with a modest budget, Sole Survivor nevertheless has decent production values. The film benefits from good cinematography and more than decent lighting. The effects that are used in the opening air plane crash aftermath sequence are effective and there’s some truly creepy makeup work featured towards the film’s finish. The movie also does a good job in how it uses sound, working an unsettling and rather subtle pulse into certain scenes that tie into the opening. The synth score from David F. Anthony is also pretty effective, never dominating the film’s soundscape but instead sort of sneaking up on you. While for the most part the gore is fairly restrained, it’s also interesting to note that the movie had to have been an influence on the Final Destination series which clearly ‘borrow’ from Sole Survivor’s basic premise.


    Code Red brings Sole Survivor to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded transfer taken from a ‘new 2k scan of the original negative’ and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. There’s very good detail evident throughout, even in the film’s many darker scenes. The picture retains a strong film-like quality, showing a natural amount of film grain but very little in the way of actual print damage - outside of one shot where there’s a vertical scratch that lasts a few seconds, the picture is nearly pristine. Colors are reproduced very nicely, black levels are strong and there are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction to complain about.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. While the track sounds a little flat, this would seem to be a pretty accurate representation of what the film would sound like. There’s a bit of sibilance here and there but it’s minor stuff. For the most part the dialogue is clean and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The film’s interesting score in particular sounds quite good here. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with featuring actress Caren Larkey and producer Sal Romeo moderated by Jeff Burr (the director of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Stepfather II, a couple of Puppet Master sequels and a few other pictures) and writer Jeff McKay. It’s a busy track with some good information in it as Romeo talks about the picture’s rather scattered distribution history, material that was shot and not included in the final cut (now lost), the locations that were used for the film, the effects work and more. Larkey talks about her work on the film as well, detailing her relationships with her co-stars and her thoughts on various aspects of the production. It’s pretty interesting stuff. The disc also includes an eight-minute on camera interview with Larkey and Romeo that covers some of the same ground as the commentary but that once again finds the pair looking back pretty fondly on the making of the picture, and telling some interesting stories about their work on it.

    The disc also includes the film’s original trailer (which, if you haven’t seen it, is a work of art unto itself!) and, although it’s not advertised on the packaging or the menu screen, before the feature plays we get a quick twenty-second introduction from Larky. Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    The Final Word:

    Sole Survivor is a really well made slow burn of a horror film that does a nice job building characters before really going ‘all in’ during the last twenty-minutes or so. It’s an effective and interesting film, quite well made, and Code Red’s Blu-ray release offers it up in very nice shape with some good extra features. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!