Sole Survivor Is The Proto-Final Destination Nightmare For Your Watchlist

Eberhardt’s feature debut (before “Night of the Comet” the following year) has the cerebral lingering power of Herk Harvey’s “Carnival of Souls” or Williard Huyck’s “Messiah of Evil,” with uncanny imagery of its walking dead and its ever-present orchestrations of dread. Perhaps its patient cadence was too slow for audiences in 1984, accounting for its obscurity in a decade filled with deadly zombie pictures like the following year’s “Return of the Living Dead.” After TV producer Denise survives a plane crash, she finds herself pursued by weird-looking, hollow-eyed strangers in public. She quickly discerns that something supernatural is after her, a concern dismissed by others as mental distress. Meanwhile, the threat grows.

Denise tells her doctor boyfriend a story of a time when a glitch worked out in her favor and she didn’t get charged for a dress she bought. She tells him this as she ruminates on her complicated feelings as the one who walked away from the wreckage when everyone else perished horribly. He tries to assuage her dread — which she differentiates from simple survivor’s guilt — by reminding her that she essentially got a free dress, since the seller never charged her. “Yes, they did,” Denise corrects him. She follows it up with a proto version of Bludhorn’s “no escapes” maxim: “It’s those damn computers. They made a mistake. But sooner or later, they’ll find you.”

“They” in this case means the recently deceased — so recent that they are found by police with their blood pooled in their legs, as though they had been upright after death. This makes for some tremendous scares as vacant-faced cadavers stalk Denise to finish off what her fateful flight started. Come for the undead repo people, stay for an unhinged Caren Larkey performance as a psychic with a great character payoff in the finale. Her Bludhorn moment: “You cannot stop it, and anyone who stands in its way, or finds out, or even remotely suspects it, they will be dealt with.”

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