The ’80s are extensively seen as one in all horror’s finest many years, however given the quantity of classics that got here out, many are certain to be left within the mud and misplaced to time. That’s what makes 1984’s Sole Survivor such an enchanting watch. Where most of this decade’s horror movies vowed to gross audiences out with blood and gore, this one opts to construct a pleasant chilly ambiance, one ripe for a unbelievable ghost story, and that’s precisely what it accomplishes. If you’re on the lookout for an eerie ’80s viewing that mixes old-school ’60s supernatural components, the slick visible sensibilities of ’80s horror films, and among the tragedy that you just may discover in a Stephen King novel, then Sole Survivor is the final word chiller for you.
By the time the mid-80s had come round, the horror style had already been by many various phases. The early years have been plagued with ghost tales, supernatural monsters, re-animated corpses, and one literary adaptation after the following. Once audiences had grown bored with Dracula and Frankenstein films, filmmakers turned the horrors of the true world into large, atomic, bug-eyed monsters and explored each avenue of alien invaders attainable. Those fears didn’t final lengthy, although. The Nineteen Seventies noticed audiences dealing with the very actual nightmares of suburbia, catching information updates about serial killers and baby abductions extra typically than they’d discover themselves touring to the movie show. Hollywood knew this too, and from the late ’70s to the mid-90s, they turned the style’s panorama right into a slasher-filled massacre. Horror is a continuously evolving style. People’s fears are by no means fastened on one factor for lengthy, however that doesn’t imply that they don’t additionally finally circle again.
That’s the place Sole Survivor comes into the equation. On one hand, it is a basic, throwback ghost story in each sense of the subgenre. The movie follows Denise Watson (Anita Skinner), the titular sole survivor of a cataclysmic airplane crash. She emerges from the wreckage, and at first, seems to be feeling survivor’s guilt. It doesn’t take lengthy for these emotions to show themselves as one thing way more sinister. Denise begins to note that quiet, ominous persons are coming for her, forces who appear to have a supernatural, ghostly air about them. Things are made as soon as she realizes that, till they’ll lastly catch Denise and take her life, they are going to kill the folks round her. Denise has to discover a strategy to proceed dishonest demise or give in to her endless waves of violent stalkers.
The ’80s hardly ever noticed low-budget horror films get made with this little of an curiosity in on-screen violence. Sole Survivor does have kills in it, and good ones at that, however you aren’t right here to look at a determine like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers stroll round and shoot arrows by folks’s eyes, or ram a shotgun by anyone’s chest (sure, Halloween went there). This is a movie that’s far more inquisitive about getting its viewers invested in Denise Watson’s survival. She’s a likable feminine protagonist who was met with devastating trauma, and that’s not even the worst half! Her life is now threatened by the undead! Where most ’80s horror films have been inquisitive about having a central villain for audiences to return to, this one had a central hero, one whose security was your primary concern.
That being mentioned, the supernatural threats of this film are a reasonably enjoyable mixture of outdated and new spooky components. The film principally presents your typical ghostly villains that stare at or creep up on Denise from afar, with a plot that’s eerily harking back to Carnival of Souls. It’s an strategy that shoots to construct up rigidity and ambiance greater than something, however when the filmmakers do need to go for a very good kill, they positively don’t shrink back. Don’t count on a massacre, however ensure you aren’t anticipating pure ambiance, both. This was the ’80s in spite of everything, you had to slot in a brutal slash right here and there. The actual terror right here lies in our distrust of who’s and isn’t one of many undead. Think of the current basic It Follows and the way in which that movie’s leads isolate themselves from these exterior of their group, and worry anybody approaching their circle.
Sole Survivor additionally feels fairly a bit like its contemporaries. It has a low-budget horror look to it however by no means feels low cost essentially. Instead, there’s a visible sensibility to it that proves the filmmakers’ intent on creating an atmosphere-heavy movie. Think of the early works of John Carpenter, the place streetlights barely illuminate the streets on foggy nights, and the within of hospitals and other people’s properties are darkish and quiet. While synthesizers are busy working up your goosebumps, you’ll end up feeling that one thing is lurking simply round each nook or off within the shadows. Not a single place feels secure.
If you’re a Stephen King fan, you’re certain to take pleasure in Sole Survivor. King has at all times been nice at writing horror tales, however his tragedies are sometimes unmatched. This film has an actual Shining really feel to loads of it, with its creeping, affected person cinematography, and mastery in giving virtually each location a haunted high quality. Not solely that, its lead feels an entire lot like The Dead Zone‘s Johnny Smith, who, like Denise Watson, is met with a tragedy that led to him being tremendously burdened by the supernatural. For good measure, you can even throw in a little bit of Pet Semetary, with the movie having a great deal of unsettling scenes the place the undead stalk and kill a number of harmless folks.
It’s a disgrace that Sole Survivor hasn’t precisely had the legs of a true-blue horror basic. Director Thom Eberhardt would proceed working in movie, making films like Night of the Comet and Without a Clue, and would write Honey, I Blew Up the Kid however by no means had a smash hit on his palms. A number of the forged wouldn’t skyrocket into the mainstream both. Thankfully, the movie’s cinematographer, Russell Carpenter, who ought to be given half the credit score for its ambiance, went on to shoot a great deal of classics. He’d win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his work on Titanic, and would even go on to shoot Avatar: The Way of Water.