Cast: Lance Henriksen, Dermot Mulroney, Mark Ralston
Deep within the Rocky Mountains, six pampered city
folks are learning
the basics of outdoor survival.
Suddenly, their expert instructor is shot.
A paramilitary group is stalking them like prey.
Unarmed...prepared only with the survival skills they
have just learned,
they are on their own in the vast wilderness with no place to turn!
- Front video box blurb for Survival Quest
Okay, you've read the above. I'm sure you have a pretty
good idea of
what the movie is like, right? Well, you're wrong. Yes, wrong. Oh, the
events above do happen. Just not in the way you figured.
I'm sure you thought it was going to be another Most
Game. So did I when I rented it. In fact, it's paced and feels
more like Deliverance, though with the crisis in this
occurring much later into the movie, and after much character
and situation setup. The time before the crisis takes so much time, I'm
not surprised that MGM decided to give this a very quick release in a
theaters before dumping it on video at the same time with another on-the-run-in-the-wilderness
movie, Damned River.
But I'm not saying it's a bad movie It's not great, but
I rather enjoyed
this change of pace. But I think one man's meat is another man's poison
is more apt in this case, so you better be fully aware of the plot and
pacing before considering a rental, even if knowing that director
is also the creative force behind the four Phantasm. Though
there is a cameo by Phantasm regular Reggie Bannister,
movie is as different in style as night is from day as this movie is to
all four Phantasm movies.
At a small airport (presumably somewhere in California),
of people board a chartered airplane. The first group is made up of
men who have signed up for survivalist training lead by the
paramilitary group. The other group has signed on for basic wilderness
survival, and is made up of a variety of people including a divorcee,
unemployed man in his 50s, a rich and engaged young woman, and a
delinquent there as a condition of his sentence. (There's also a black
man along with the group, but with his character never being explored
hardly saying anything for the course of the movie, one has to wonder
there was unconscious racism on part of the filmmakers.)
The two groups - hostile of each other - eventually land
deep in the
wilderness and are glad to split from each other. The wilderness group
meets Hank (Henriksen), who is to be their instructor for the next few
weeks. He spends the first few days training the group at home base in
group activities that make them work together, and giving them advice
"You don't leave anyone behind." Meanwhile, at the nearby survivalist
the sadistic instructor immediately plunges the cadets in sadistic
one of them being stripping off the cadets' shirts, tying their hands,
blinding them with pepper spray, and giving them a short time to run
and hide for three days from other cadets.
Then later, the two groups set out to hike deep into the
to use their newly learned skills for real. There are two minor
between the groups during the days ahead - the survivalists fire paint
guns at the wilderness group, and Hank humiliates the survivalist
when the survivalist illegally kills a deer - but both incidents seem
forgotten by both sides. But later, one of the more unsteady
students accidentally shoots Hank. Pushed over the edge, the student
over the group and commands his followers to track down and kill the
members of the wilderness group, who are fleeing towards the airfield
It does sound like the description at the start
of this review,
doesn't it? But as I said before, the events do happen, but not in the
way that you thought. The prime difference comes from the fact that
is shot not in the first third of the movie, but more than halfway
the 91 minute running time. This, of course, stops the movie from
becoming an action/adventure thriller. So what do they do between the
events before Hank is shot? Well, we learn a few survival tips, and
are short vignettes as when during the hike, the wilderness group gets
stuck on a mountain and must figure out how to survive spending the
But, surprisingly, most of the movie is spent on
Henriksen does a wonderful job as Hank, a kind (but no softy)
leader who believes in teaching people by letting them figure out
themselves. Instead of violently confronting the sullen and furious
delinquent, Hank treats him normally and simply tells him of the
he has and the probably consequences. This treatment and the entire
experience has a believable effect on the delinquent, mainly because he
slowly changes his way. He slowly turns from moody and uncommunicative
to becoming friendlier and caring about the other members of his group.
Even the survivalist leader is portrayed more realistically; he's bad,
but not evil. In fact, viewers will be surprised that later on the
they'll feel some sympathy towards him.
As for the more action-filled last third of the movie,
it is generally
competent, though there is a significant lack of tension. The musical
really reflects this, by seemingly made for another kind of picture.
there's a scene concerning a giant log that will provoke a few
chuckles, for the log is clearly not made of a natural occurring
However, this movie was not really intended to be an
action movie. I
liked it all the same, but I admit that the description on the front
really set me up for something else. Now that you know what the movie
like, you'll be better able to make a decision if Survival
fits your tastes or not.
for availability on Amazon (DVD)
See also: Rituals, Shoot, Survival Run