Review: 'My Soul To Take'


Some folks think the horror fans are a fickle lot; that we enjoy turning on our masters and devouring their hearts. Filmmakers we loved in the past -- the Carpenters, the Hoopers, the Cravens -- are now tossed casually into the trash pile because nowadays all the horror fans want are Saw 7 or The Grudge Remake 8, or The Exorcism of Nine. That claim is, of course, ridiculous, and I don't know the horror film freak who wouldn't be thrilled to get excited by a new Wes Craven film. I think the problem is that many horror-makers simply run out of steam and/or ideas, which means they're required to repackage their old successes into lame, limp, and harrowingly unwatchable experiences like My Soul to Take. (Or they simple rubber-stamp some remakes and keep chasing sequels.)

Dubiously billed as Wes Craven's First 3-D Film (as if that adds one whit of quality to the final product), My Soul to Take is, quite simply, amateur hour all the way. This could be forgiven if the filmmaker was brand-new, or if the movie offered something of quality to counter-balance the outlandish dialogue, the whiplash-inducing editorial confusion, or the consistently irritating characters -- but let's not forget that this is a horror film from the man who once directed The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and Scream. This is a man who knows how to make very good horror films. And yet here he is, with a check from Rogue Pictures and full permission to make an R-rated horror film, and the result is ... this?

Let me see if I can explain the plot: a schizophrenic maniac dies the same night that seven babies are born. Plus there's an ambulance explosion. So far so good. Then we flash forward 16 years, and instead of a movie about a schizophrenic maniac who survived an ambulance explosion, we're now offered a stable of generic adolescents who look like they fell out of movies like The Covenant, Soul Survivors, or Urban Legend. (All films that are better than My Soul to Take, incidentally.) The gang of seven jerks is introduced to the audience by way of a stupidly elaborate stunt (that is explained in horrible chunks of arid dialogue) that has something to do with the "Ripperton Ripper" (cleverrr) aka the guy who blew up in an ambulance two scenes earlier.

Then one of the kids (spoiler: the Asian one) gets killed, then we get about a half-hour of truly painful high school stuff, then there are a few more kills, and then the flick spends another half hour with the main (extra boring) kid, his hateful bitch of a sister, and their very uninteresting mother. Then there is a twist, for lack of a better word, and a third act that simply refuses to wheeze quiet. And then the credits arise, trumpeting like the cavalry, thus ending the worst film that Wes Craven has directed -- and yes, that includes Cursed, Shocker, and Deadly Friend. So what's wrong with My Soul to Take, aside from its telegraphed plot contortions, its witlessly uninteresting teenagers, and its myriad post-production scars and stretch marks? The frankly worthless 3-D presentation? The numerous and endless scenes filled with clunky exposition that start to feel like pothead improvisation mixed with out-and-out verbal nonsense? Straight-faced plot devices about condors, silly schizophrenia, and even MORE bouts of endless chit-chat?

Craven is basically sampling a little Scream here and a little Elm Street there (with just a dash of Shocker, I suppose), but none of those films are ridiculously silly and brain-smashingly boring at the same time. With all due respect to a true master of horror cinema, it feels a whole lot like Mr. Craven is simply sitting in the director's chair, churning out themes and concepts that once yielded huge successes, content to keep busy before heading off to do ... Scream 4. And since I know that Wes Craven is a powerfully intelligent man, I can't help but feel a little bit insulted by what's on display in My Soul to Take. From a newcomer who still has lessons to learn, the ineptitude of this film could be understood; from a man like Wes Craven, it feels like a big fat cheat.

Or hell, maybe this movie once existed as some sort of modern masterpiece, only to be ruined by too many cooks in the editorial kitchen. I tried to look between the cracks for the nugget of a cool concept or a novel idea, but nope: this is just plain old bad filmmaking. The misshapen lump of celluloid feels like two 45-minute episodes of a failed Fox genre series that have been glued together with a few dreary scenes of cops wandering through creeks and forests.

Basically, the flick would be hilarious if it weren't so stupidly incomprehensible. And boring. Dear lord it just never shuts up.