Soul Survivors' clearest message comes in the first fifteen minutes of the film: "Drinking and Driving Kills." In this case the victim is Sean (Casey Affleck), a young man who drives his girlfriend Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) to her first year of college. Along with friends, the couple spends the night partying at an old burned out church known as "The Club" where the darker elements of society hang out. Driving back to campus, their car spins out of control on the rain slicked road and plunges down a steep embankment. Following the funeral, Cassie returns to school but she is haunted by recurring hallucinations of her lost boyfriend, blood-splattered images and stalking, disfigured characters.
While Cassie struggles through the mourning process, her best friend Annabel (Eliza Dushku) finds solace in the wild party scene at the abandoned church and the shady figures that haunt the once hallowed halls. Matt (Wes Bentley), Cassie's former love interest, leaves Harvard to spend the semester watching over her but is unable to understand her odd behavior.
Only when she meets Father Jude (Luke Wilson), the local Catholic priest, does Cassie find a listening ear. Encouraged by his compassionate counseling, Cassie finds the courage to face her feelings of guilt and fight a battle to save her soul.
Weaving a religious element into this teen horror flick, Director Steve Carpenter contrasts the raucous dancing and lewd activities of the club to the quiet benevolence of the campus priest. But parents should be warned that even this unusually positive depiction of religious leaders is shattered when another priest reaches down the shirt of a distressed parishioner. From there on out this film is filled with quick cut scenes of mangled accident victims, dripping blood, wild parties, eerie chases, and sex in the forest--enough to worry any parent who's just sent a college freshman out the door.
Rather than heading for this movie, families might find a good discussion about drunk driving and college life a better way to survive the first semester away from home.