09th Nov2020

‘S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jeannine Kaspar, Kseniya Pinch, Marianna Rosset, William Baldwin | Written by Roman Doronin, Marcus Jerrome | Directed by Roman Doronin

Cujo, Open Water, Frozen… just three genre films that feature people being stranded in a situation out of their control. Be it in a car with a rabid dog outside; in shark-infested waters without a boat; or stuck on a ski lift after dark. Scary situations all. And now comes S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice – in which a group of people are stranded in a hot air balloon floating out of control…

When Kate (Jeannine Kaspar) and her 13-year old little sister Liz (Kseniya Pinch) are reunited on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Kate meets Myrianthy (Marianna Rosset) and a group of locals whom she agrees to an exciting ride in a hot air balloon with. The joyride takes a dangerous turn when it becomes untethered, and the passengers ascend without a pilot. Their cell phones out of range, and the balloon running out of gas, Kate and Myrianthy begin a desperate fight for their lives as the balloon is pushed out over the open ocean. Back on land, Liz has become an unwanted “material witness” to a robbery committed by Jack (William Baldwin), who happens to be Myrianthy’s boyfriend. While Liz may be their only hope of rescue, can she get to them in time?

Filmed in Cyprus, on a sound stage with a real balloon and all the trappings that come with it (the burners, cramped setting etc), S.O.S. at least looks the part. Most of the time. For whilst the use of a sound stage may sound (pardon the pun) ideal, it actually makes the film look remarkably fake – especially when you can see the green glow of the green screen in the actors hair or creeping through the woven sides of the hot air balloons basket. And that feeling of being “fake” extends to more than the setting, in fact S.O.S. struggles with believability entirely.

For one, the films situation feels overly scripted. Kate meets total strangers at a club, leaving her sister behind AND goes on a hot air balloon ride with said strangers – who clearly have NO idea about how to keep themselves, and their new “friends” safe? And it ends ups floating away. Whilst Myrianthy, one of Kate’s new “friends” has a boyfriend who’s a thief who is using the time Kate is away to rob her hotel room? Come on, that’s stretching Murphy’s law (for thats the story trope this film takes) too far even for a feature film!

As for that side plot – with William Baldwin’s boyfriend turned thief – it feels little more than padding for the movie. It’s clear that co-writer and director Roman Doronin didn’t have enough of a story with terrifying balloon ride alone; even though other films of this ilk have managed to stretch out their stories without issue. Unfortunately here, even with the extra plot thread, S.O.S.‘s story feels like it has been dragged out too far. Again affecting the films believability.

The only thing S.O.S. really has going for it is actress Jeannine Kaspar,. Besides the indubitably bad choice to party with strangers in Cyprus, her character Kate is actually the only one who feels real and – shock, horror – believable, in this whole film. And that’s despite some of the terrible scripting Kaspar has to work with. She honestly makes the best of what she’s given, especially when it comes to the her performance inside the hot air balloon’s basket (though the less said about Doronin’s choice to have his TWO female leads strip down to their underwear for said time in the basket the better). The rest of S.O.S.‘s cast feels very mush amateur-hour in comparison. As for William Baldwin… Well it’s obvious he’s yet another name-only cameo who probably exchanged a decent paycheck and a free holiday to Cyprus for a role that sees him sleepwalk through his performance.

Unfortunately the more S.O.S. goes on, the more it looses all credibility. Ultimately ending with a plot point that is more ridiculous than anything that has come before it; which will leave audiences chuckling rather than letting out a much-needed sigh of relief.

S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice is out now on VOD from Vision Films.


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