Sole Survivor (1983)

“Odd. I feel odd.”

Denise is on my wavelength.

Speaking of wavelengths, Sole Survivor is into something. Something good. However, articulating that goodness doesn’t come easy. Yet, as we all know, hard work tends to pay off. Unless your name is Denise (“Call me Dee-Dee!”) and you’ve just sole-survived a massive airplane tragedy. In that case, Fate has other plans. Thankfully, Fate flies a 747 and there’s plenty of room for all of us.

The sky is overcast. Climate is muggy. The rain never stops. So this is Christmas? Amidst the gloom, the Christmas-set Sole Survivor bonds happily with Carnival Of Souls (1963) and Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, borrowing the former’s unearthly plot and the latter’s simmering perplexity. Survivor also cribs visuals and cosiness from that beast of all beasts, The 1983 Slasher. The film is polished, mysterious, and even a little flawed. Yes, we’re in good hands. Yes, there’s a storyline. No, there’s no point in mentioning it.

Like Jessica, Sole Survivor attains its greatest potency when you don’t know what to expect. While the mood gets an occasional intrusion (the mismatched falling-in-love segment), the odd poise is airtight. The down-to-earth characters, constantly evolving dread, and ass-flattening climax implore you to watch. And then, when it’s all over, things still aren’t crystal. So you watch it again. Whispers are more prominent. Strip-poker comic relief makes sense. A poolside murder becomes even more chilling. When a horror film as obscure as Sole Survivor humbly envelops you, then keeps you coming back, it’s an occasion to be revered.

Although it’s a few decisions shy of exquisiteness, the earnest Sole Survivor achieves what many thrifty, obscure 80s horror films cannot: Impact. Staying power. A good, downbeat scare. Hang onto the wings and don’t let go.

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