Soul Survivors

All right, so it isn't "horror," but I figure this is where most of us are going to look first--I think that the entire PLANET OF THE APES phenomena has enough relevance to everyone on this board to merit a little discussion here.

I was really looking forward to this one--since they didn't play stupid "hide and seek" games with the ape creations in the publicity, I knew that the look and atmosphere of the film would be simply fantastic. And visually, Tim Burton has done it again--there's enough to LOOK at to merit a recommendation for those who want above all else to see the techniques that make it all happen. 

You also know that I've never automatically had it in for remakes--just ask me about THE MUMMY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG if you think otherwise.

But let's make it plain and simple--there's something about the original PLANET OF THE APES that makes it the better film about ten times over. It's always going to be the one with the staying power, and it's always going to be the one that we'll have the fondest memories of. 

Characters? Tim Roth stands out in the new movie as General Thade--his performance is sufficiently possessed (and the effects used to enhance it so seamlessly integrated) that you not only believe in him as a character, you damn well believe in him as an APE! By comparison, Helena Bonham Carter, though a fine actress, still looks like a human actress in ape makeup--and hell if I can even remember her character name--or those of just about anyone else. One doesn't forget Taylor, Cornelius, Zira or Dr. Zaius--and I don't just mean those who've seen the first film a hundred times, either. Those were memorable CHARACTERS, not merely great effects.

To my horror, the new APES (it's certainly not a remake of the familiar story, so it's not predictable in that sense) actually bored me at times. I could not believe that we were seeing yet another "slow buildup to the battle followed by... the battle itself" series of events. Again, different story--but remember how well the first one worked even though the "action" as such was confined to the middle of the movie? Nobody got bored towards the end because they were caught up in what the characters were DOING, and what they were talking ABOUT. Why is a massive simian army (the kind they couldn't do in the late 60s) any different from a tribe of jackal warriors in THE MUMMY RETURNS?

In such a day and age where video distributors happily plaster the image of the Statue of Liberty on the box art for the original film, it almost seems pointless to try to come up with a twist ending--in advance, everyone will be thinking "Okay, here it comes!" Still, it's amusingly handled and takes a page from the Pierre Boulle novel that was never explored in the first film. Homework was done, no question about it. But the rich mine of social, political, religious and scientific satire available in the APES mythos is trotted out as a series of catchphrases and quick conversations here, as it's apparently far more important to overwhelm today's viewers with the visuals. Remember how long the first film kept your attention with barren landscapes before anything actually HAPPENED? Notice how I keep going on and on about the first film no matter how hard I try to talk about the new one?

The new PLANET OF THE APES demands to be SEEN at least once. But to the critics who claim that it surpasses its inspiration, I can only say... I envy you your youth.
Okay, I'm coming back to this board now. Last time I was quite prepared to dump SOUL SURVIVORS--to make it the exception to my "completist" rule. Well, times have drastically changed, as we all know--and as fate would have it, this much-maligned misfire of a "horror" film opened near enough to me to count for something.

I'll be damned if I let anybody, let alone a group of evil cowards, tell me or anyone else how to live. There's a horror movie in town, and I'm bloody well going to the movies if I want to go to the movies.

No matinee price today--the stupid thing's sharing a screen with PLANET OF THE APES on separate admission. No matter. They gave me free ice water to make up for the drink money I blew on a ticket, and they immediately changed the lens when I told them that everybody was looking like a squashed dwarf on screen. Bless 'em.

And yes, it was every bit as bad as I thought it would be--but no matter. If I hadn't checked this sucker out with my own eyes, I never would have known how truly ludicrous it actually was! More poison for my pen--bless 'em. So why don't I spoil it for you now, as I know I'm the only one on this board who's going to see it--in theatres, at least?


VALENTINE may still be the worst film of the year, because Jamie Blanks, as I see it, is capable of doing something great if he gets away from the slash-hash. As for Steven Carpenter? With or without Jeffrey Obrow, I was only impressed (at all) with THE KINDRED. SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT? Give me a break (though it was about as good as the book, if that means anything). Who the hell thought anybody needed another "trauma survival" movie that leads inevitably to the "dead all along" revelation at the end?

Oh, but something so stale deserves yet another twist at the end, right? You won't believe what we get here...

Eliza Dukshu (the BUFFY one) gets the head of the poster, but only a supporting role. It's Melissa Sagemiller who's at the wheel when the party-of-four gets into a fatal wreck after a lot of teen-angst misunderstandings. Her boyfriend is the only one who (supposedly) dies. Meanwhile, Carpenter tries to be Argento when he has a plastic-mask-faced guy and an imposing Indian chase Melissa around--her friends continue to bicker and betray, she keeps having bloody hallucinations, her dead boyfriend keeps showing up to try to protect her... and, oh yes, there's a kind young priest who pops up for spiritual counseling every now and then. And no shortage of "dead" dialogue to drop the oh-so-subtle hints. And Angela Featherstone shows up as a (supposedly) androgynous character named "Raven" who seems to be having a passionate affair with Annabel (Dukshu) while constantly scoping Cassie (Sagemiller) out and giving her cryptic dialogue...

Supposedly a bunch of gore was cut--well, maybe more blood burst from the drain (at least it wasn't the shower head this time), and maybe Cassie's nosebleed was worse? Perhaps when the mask-man gets jabbed with a broken fluorescent tube? But not much, really. The only obvious cutting comes when some partial nudity was clearly involved with Featherstone--it's hastily and sloppily edited around. The others shower fully dressed after a paint party...

Oh, but you're waiting for that howler of an ending? Here goes--boyfriend Sean (Wes Bentley of AMERICAN BEAUTY) was actually the only one who SURVIVED the wreck, and everybody ELSE is dead! But we're not done yet--you see, as Father Jude (who's also dead) explains, Cassie has the will to die for Sean--but she also has the will to LIVE for him... so she can finally tell him that she LOVES HIM!

So she LIVES! She wakes up in bed! She's surrounded by her boyfriend and her parents after surviving her head operation! And she tells them all about it! And you were there! And you! And you! And... OH, AUNTIE EM! THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!!

That final proclamation of mine brought down the house (a crowd of three) as I let it fly when the end credits came up.

Yes, it was a prize stinker. Yes, in a movie year as dreadful as this, perhaps I might have deliberately skipped it. As it stands now, I wouldn't have missed it for anything. 

Bless 'em.

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