My Soul To Take
Very few would argue the statement that Wes Craven is one of the most well known and highly regarded Masters of Horror current active in the film community. Even with such well respected and fully established laurels there are occasions where even the best hitter strikes out. The same bat that can win records for home runs will inevitably strike out from time to time. The recent horror flick created by Craven, ‘My Soul to Take’ is a swing and a miss. Craven certainly knows how to construct a horror film. His series ‘The Nightmare on Elm Street’ made its nocturnal terror, Freddie Kruger, into one of the most recognizable purveyors of teen murder and dismemberment in the long history of the genre. Even an obvious failure like this will not adversely affect the reputation of this filmmaker especially with another installment of self satiric ‘Scream’ franchise getting its theatrical release keeping that portion of Craven’s legendary reputation secure. ‘My Soul to Take’ feels more like bits and pieces of discarded screenplays Craven located in his office. Since he already had a dark comedy horror variation ready to go he might as well pull the scrapes together for the equivalent of pot luck dinner with a standard horror motif. While this consideration is specific to the Blu-ray it is worth noting the critics were not provided with an opportunity to preview the theatrical release; never a good sign. This also indicates that the studios, and undoubtedly the filmmaker, realized this flick will never make any ‘Best of’ list and was fated to be nearly universally panned. I’ve seen worse, which is to say out of several thousand movies in my collection a few descended below what this movie has to offer. Still, with that said if you are in the right frame of mind, sitting in a room with some friends, a pizza or two and an ample supply of beer you might just get a fun afternoon out of the proceedings. Look at watching this as playing ‘Mystery Science Fiction 3000’, the home game.
Craven gets right to it starting the film in very familiar territory. Abel (Raul Esparza) is a family man living in the small community of Riverton. As he works on a doll house for his daughter and yet to be born child the news details the latest facts just in on the serial killer plaguing the town, the evidence is a shadowy image of the murder and his heinous weapon of choice; a curved knife with ‘Vengeance written on the blade. He slips and sees the blood soaked weapon hidden under a bench. He is obviously the killer and the voices bouncing all around the room is the usual directorial plot device that diagnosis some form of multiple personality disorder. At least with the DTS MA HD audio the effect is dynamic with the voices clearly emanating from discrete points around the room including one voice offering Able a deal; look the other way when I kill and I’ll leave your family alone. Okay, sufficiently spooky but nothing we haven’t seen, and heard many times before. After he kills his wife Sarah (Alexandra Wilson) the police arrive in time to prevent him from killing his daughter, in a scene is suitably unrealistic it takes the police several times before Able is not only merely dead he’s truly most sincerely dead. During that time he does shoot one of the responding officers. At the hospital the staff is busier than usual with a record seven premature births. The ambulance attendant provides the exposition that Able has multiple souls that will live on after he dies. To punctuate the point the ripper comes back to slash the throat of the EMT. Sixteen years later the teens of the town are celebrating ‘Ripper Day’. More than an excuse for a wild time it is the birthday of seven of the celebrants, collectively known as ‘The Riverton Seven’. As Brandon (Nick Lashaway) explains each year one of their numbers must stand against the spirit of the Ripper to save the group from his vengeance. This year the dubious honor goes to’ Bug' (Max Thieriot).from that point the mayhem and co-requisite slaughter commences. There is little to allow the teen potential victims to stand out or permit the audience to care about their inevitable fate. In a few cases the characters are so incredibly annoying you might find yourself gleefully relieved when the Ripper finally gets around to them. There must be a check list for the teen archetypes used in these flicks. There is the mandatory contrast in the attractive girls with the devotedly religious, provided here by the very pretty redhead Penelope (Zena Grey) juxtaposed physically in temperamentally with the aptly named bad girl Fang (Emily Meade). On the male side Brandon is the popular jock while fellow Riverton Seven member Bug is the lamentable looser. The school is integrated with the black couple, Jerome (Denzel Whitaker) and his overbearing girlfriend Chandelle (Shareeka Epps). Meanwhile, the unattainable beauty is predictably named Brittany (Brittany). Other teens are present but their fundamental function is to keep the all important body count up in an acceptable rang; acceptable at least for devotees of the slash and dash flick.
The movie is as predictable as one of the ‘Scream’ type satires. This is demonstrated by the attractive pair getting murdered right after he demands oral sex and she runs off into the woods. They might as well be wearing tee shirts with ‘Victim #’ on it. ‘Soul jumping’ is a popular plot device in horror flicks but as evident here it has the tendency to muddle the plot and come across completely contrived. One performance I did enjoy was by Ms Meade. She was recently in the very strange ‘Burning Palms’ and is about to enter the comic con fad world cast in the season finale of the cult classic TV series ‘Fringe’. She owned the bad girl in charge persona better than most young actresses who have take on this sort of role.