Tone and atmosphere are the only things worthy of falling in love with in this early eighties supernatural, pseudo-slasher.
The lone survivor of a plane crash is haunted by death in the form of undead humans. Let’s dig into 1984’s SOLE SURVIVOR, directed by Thom Eberhardt!
As I See It
Writer/Director Thom Eberhardt was busy in nineteen eighty-four as he pulled double duty on this film and the cult apocalyptic horror Night of the Comet. I have enjoyed everything he’s made that I’ve seen, but I would have to leave this film at the bottom of the list.
It has a deeply existential premise, and he never lacks heart in his writing. But for a horror film, there is never enough of a threat to usurp the survivor’s guilt Denise must feel for being the unlikely lone survivor of a deadly plane crash.
It’s relatively uninteresting, even though I like Anita Skinner’s (Denise) performance for the most part. Somehow it feels more supernatural than the Final Destination films (which I talk about below as being the indirect successor to this film). But the killer in Sole Survivor is human, mostly. It plays really cheesy regardless if you consider them zombies or ghosts or just some nebulous killers.
Thom Eberhardt has written some guilty pleasure films for me. All I Want for Christmas (starring a young Ethan Embry and Thora Birch), The Night Before (starring Keanu Reeves and Lori Loughlin), and Captain Ron (starring an eye patch-wearing Kurt Russell, not named Snake Plissken), which he also directed. (I vividly remember watching that one over and over again on an illegal cable box back when it was on pay-per-view.)
A little cameo by Leon Robinson (Gang Leader) was easy for me to spot because I watched anything with John Candy religiously as a kid. He played Darice Bannock in Cool Runnings, the Disney film about the Jamaican bobsled team.
Of Gratuitous Nature
An obligatory strip poker scene seems to come from Eberhardt’s eighties comedy brain.
The nineteen-fifties kitchen is a scene stealer. It is in such stark contrast to the rest of the atmosphere of the film, and the colors really pop on camera.
Ripe for a Remake
You wouldn’t be able to use the premise without being called a rip-off, so in my opinion, it’s not worth the effort.
The spiritual connection to the successful, fate-based franchise Final Destination is impossible to ignore. Where that series employed an amorphous threat, Thom Eberhardt utilized death embodied in… well, bodies. It’s really zombies, without calling them such, but they have the feel of ghosts. Murderous, malevolent ghosts.
Where to Watch
Code Red released a Blu-Ray back in 2017. It is available to stream on Shudder and AMC+.