THE SURVIVOR (1981) Reviews and overview

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‘Pilot error? Or supernatural terror?’
The Survivor is a 1981 Australian horror thriller film directed by David Hemmings (actor in Harlequin; Thirst; Deep Red) from a screenplay by David Ambrose (Blackout), based on a novel of the same name by British author James Herbert. The movie stars Robert Powell (Harlequin; Asylum), Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2; An American Werewolf in London; Dominique), Joseph Cotten (The Hearse; Baron Blood; Lady Frankenstein).

It was produced by Antony I. Ginnane (Patrick: Evil Awakens; Dark Age; Turkey Shoot) and the score was provided by composer Brian May.


Prior to filming David Hemmings and Antony I. Ginnane discussed whether to make the film gory or more cerebral in the vein of The Innocents (1961). They chose the latter, a decision Ginnane later said was a mistake. Novelist James Herbert later described the film to David J Howe as “terrible … absolute rubbish.”

The Survivor was released on Blu-ray in North America by Severin Films on January 10, 2017.



Special Features:
Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews with Producer Antony I. Ginnane and Cinematographer John Seale
The Legacy of James Herbert
Robert Powell on James Herbert – Archive TV Special On Location Featuring Interviews with Stars Joseph Cotten and Peter Sumner
Archive TV Interview with David Hemmings
Archive TV Interview with David Hemmings and Robert Powell
Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel
TV Spot


A pilot survives the crash of his airplane in a Sydney suburb, unhurt despite all of its 300 passengers dying in the accident. With no memories of the accident, he starts to suffer strange supernatural visions, guiding him to suspect that something happened in the crash and that the accident maybe wasn’t an accident…

“Although by no means a horror classic, The Survivor is a well-made and evocative thriller that, almost 35 years after its release, can finally be appreciated for what it is and not panned for refusing to meet audience demands of its time.” Cinemaretro

“The central idea is actually very good, but the handling of it gets seriously fumbled by both the script and the direction, resulting in a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.” House of Mortal Cinema

“Some instances of creepy imagery, such as the roasted corpses, are unsettling, and the lily white-clad children economically convey a spectral eeriness. That something very strange is afoot is never really in question–you’re just kind of left wishing The Survivor would find its groove; and it never does.” Oh, the Horror!


“The acting is decent enough, with a fleeting appearance by Joseph Cotton that completists may want to check out, and nothing is completely mishandled but half of the film is, dare I say it, a little bit dull when showing Keller attempting to mentally recover from the effects of the plane crash … Still worth a watch…” Flickfeast


“It could have been made to work but David Hemmings’s attempts to build atmosphere are tediously drawn out. The payoffs frequently verge on the ludicrous – like the scene where Jenny Agutter is possessed or the woeful attempt to make a batch of photos in a developing vat seem threatening.” Moria

“Although the technical credits are adequate and Brian May’s score effective, there are still too many longeurs and heavy-handed moments…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror




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