Some horror films reach out and grab you by the throat, while others build up their psychological terrors from one moment to the next. Writer-director Steve Carpenter's Soul Survivors wants to do both at once and the result is a movie that's stuck between life and death, rather like its teenage heroine.
Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) wakes up after a car accident to find that her boyfriend (Casey Affleck) is dead and her surviving friends (Wes Bentley and Eliza Dushku) are acting strangely. Haunted by her boyfriend's ghost, suffering a series of distressing hallucinations and chased around campus by a masked man, she begins to question just what happened on the night of the accident.
In his attempt to offer a sophisticated spin on the usual teen horror flick, Steve Carpenter (no relation to John) tries to give his characters psychological and emotional depth by staging this blend of Final Destination and Jacob's Ladder as a beyond-the-grave love story. Yet Soul Survivors is so disdainful of its audience's ability to follow the drama (providing patronising flashbacks to earlier plot points when the action has only been running for 20 minutes), that it botches the mix of the psychological and the visceral. Instead of a cerebral genre piece, Carpenter serves up a standard half-baked teen horror.
You have to wonder why Carpenter didn't just bite the bullet and create a full-on scream fest, particularly since his handling of the various set pieces - - including a swimming pool attack and one of the worst nosebleeds in film history - - is professional enough to make horror fans spill their popcorn at least once. Wasting these intermittent flourishes, Soul Survivors falls apart becoming less The Sixth Sense and more simply senseless.