The Survivor

Dir: David Hemmings
Starring: Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, Peter Sumner, Joseph Cotton

James Herbert's books were a staple of my teenage years, and I suspect many people of my age will remember stuff like the bit with the shears in The Fog (no connection to the Carpenter film). Unfortunately, there seems to be a curse on cinematic versions, which so far have failed to capture the graphic set-pieces that are Herbert's strength. It starts off well enough, a nicely-realised 747 crash guaranteeing this will never be an inflight movie. Only the pilot (Powell) survives, with amnesia, and he is contacted by a psychic (Agutter), who is being tormented by the spirits of the accident victims, unable to rest in peace until the cause is found.

Even Herbert reckoned "The dialogue was stilted, the direction was awful," and it's hard to argue. The film delivers almost nothing but atmosphere: the result is singularly tedious, though Powell & Agutter try hard, giving proceedings an undeserved weight. By the time they eventually meet, events have been drained of interest by a lengthy sequence in which a photographer is stalked by ghosts for taking pictures of the crash site (security there seems surprisingly limited, with anyone allowed to wander around at will). Things hardly improve from here on - the movie should be Exhibit A against those who claim suggestion is inherently superior to more graphic depictions.


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