You Had To Be There

D'Survivors is pretty affable, but it isn't anything that anyone really needs to see.

I can only surmise that D’Survivors seemed funny while they were shooting it. The production has an easygoing feel to it, a steady affability that matches the welcoming images of the film’s island paradise setting. I imagine a real camaraderie brewing in the cast and crew as they get to spend time with each other under a bright glowing sun on some picturesque beach. Sadly, we aren’t there with them, and what might have been hysterical on that beach ends up being pretty unfunny on screen.

A plane headed for the Babuyan Islands crashes, and a bunch of survivors wash up on the shore of a deserted island. Among them is a group of male models on their way to a shoot, a nerdy student who was hoping to study humpback whales, a London-raised balikbayan trying to reconnect with her family, a cranky flight attendant, a gay stylist and her prickly assistant, and the pilot of the plane, who doesn’t quite know what happened. The survivors are forced to work with each other in order to survive, though that proves to be more of a challenge than they expected. Things only get worse when some of the survivors mysteriously disappear at night.

The movie plays out as a series of vignettes, each segment having little to do with any sort of overarching narrative. There are plenty of details from which the movie could’ve built a story: there are long-lost siblings who’ve suddenly found each other, an old ex forced to face his guilt, a girl harboring a secret, the mysterious disappearances, and a Brazilian model suffering from some vague trauma. But the movie doesn’t really do much to expound on these stories. There are plenty of people on screen, but they never develop into actual characters.

The movie is generally more interested in reveling in pop-culture corniness. Swaths of dialogue are lifted from other films and reproduced wholesale as a shaky attempt at satire. The movie takes a break in its last half to present a half-baked talent show, basically a parade of hunky young men doing something patently ridiculous. It’s all supposed to be funny, but it’s mostly tiresome, a neverending chain of disjointed scenes, the actors mugging to compensate for the film’s lack of actual laughs. And despite the picturesque setting, the film isn’t much to look at, either, with much of everything playing out in really flat, uninteresting frames. Night scenes are barely lit, making half the film a complete struggle to watch.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the film’s cast. They do seem to be trying, but the material isn’t there at all. It might be noted that there are three Brazilian models in the cast, and that their grasp of both English and Filipino is loose at best, which doesn’t really help the film in terms of intelligibility. But I think it’s safe to say that the garbled words aren’t what keep this film from being good.

D’Survivors feels somewhat like a vacation video, one that some friends have pulled out in order to show you the hilarious time they had at some nondescript destination. But while they all laugh at the inside jokes and the vague recollections of what happened that one time with the fish, you’re left baffled and quiet, trying to figure out what anyone is talking about. And when all is said and done, you can only come to one conclusion: I guess you had to be there. It’s all pretty affable, but it isn’t anything that anyone really needs to see.

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