2Survive Loses Itself in the Desert

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When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the choose your own adventure books.  It was so cool to me to be able to plot my own course through the stories and try to avoid that catastrophic ending.  I remember, once, taking one of the books and reading it from start to finish without making the jumps to the pages that would create a cohesive story.  It was a rambling mess where nothing made sense, random plot points popped up out of nowhere, and other plot points came across like afterthoughts to the story.  I was reminded of this sensation last night as I watched writer/director Tom Seidman’s new film, 2Survive.

The premise of the film is pretty straightforward.  Six contestants for a reality TV show are taken out into the Mojave desert.  They are a motley crew comprised of a nurse, an animal psychic, a former marine, a desert biologist, a gay Buddhist, and a leggy blonde savant.  This would have been a fun group to get to know, except that we were never given the chance due to nearly non-existent character development.  The show’s host, Erik Estrada, steps out of a trailer and explains how they win the contest.  The point of the show is simple and just a little twisted.  The fewer people who cross the finish line, the more money you make.  Contestants are not allowed to impede one another, but nothing can stop them from striking out on their own except that each one carries an essential item (water, food, a compass, etc.) for the journey.

At this point, everything pretty well begins to fall apart, mostly because the movie couldn’t decide what kind of movie it was.  There are those films who can cross genres and sub-genres with ease and perhaps this one could have with a more experienced writer.  Seidman has been in the business for a long time, obtaining most of his credits as a stage manager and assistant director.  2Survive is his fourth writing credit and the second  with a horror angle.  Most of his other work, no matter what role in the crew he inhabited has been spent in family friendly, feel good movies and crime dramas.  This isn’t necessarily a problem.  A good writer is a good writer, but he just couldn’t seem to pull it all together.  His attempts at misdirection felt more like random, meaningless scenes that confuse the plot and that probably should have been cut.

For example, as the group makes plans to settle for the first night, out of nowhere a Native American Elder (that’s how he’s listed in the credits) magically appears in their midst.  He delivers the perfect, campy, over the top setup for a movie about Native American spirits seeking revenge against those who stole their land.  He then promptly disappears, never to be heard from again, and the only thing that happens in the aftermath of his visit is that the animal psychic caught a death vibe off the snake the Elder had as a companion and decides to leave the contest.

For the rest of the hour and a half run time of the film, we wander through the desert.  A cameraman dies…one contestant sets off on his own after stealing the water supply…dehydration begins to take its toll on the contestants, and a killer is revealed.  All of this sounds like it could make for a great film, and it could, except that the pacing of the film does nothing to raise tension.  Never once did my pulse race as they moved through the desert.  Never once did I sit up in anticipation of what was coming next, because the filmmaker gave me nothing to be excited about.

I gave this film every chance to make me a fan.  I really did.  It just never came together for me.  There’s a part of me that hopes that Seidman will learn from the mistakes of this movie and try again.  This wasn’t a good movie; it wasn’t a bad movie.  It was just a movie that lacked the focus to become one or the other.