Not all things get better with age. In fact, most things don’t. With the exceptions of true love and a small handful of wines, things get worse, decay and die. It’s a sad fact of life. “My Soul To Take”, the latest from director Wes Craven, is another.
Here’s the story: many moons ago, doting husband, schizophrenic and practicing serial killer Abel “The Ripper” Plankov kills his pregnant wife and attempts to kill his young daughter when he is gunned by police. Twice. However, being too crazy too crazy to die, he’s taken away in an ambulance where he gets free again, causes the ambulance to crash and when the dust finally settles, he’s disappeared. The attending paramedic (before she gets her throat cut) mentions that multiple personalities aren’t just personalities, but extra souls and these extra souls live on. But with all this tragedy, there is joy: seven babies are born that night. Fast-forward 16 years and the “Riverton Seven” have grown up to be a fine set of clichés. You have the jock (Nick Lashaway), the object of the outcast hero’s affection (Paulina Olszynsky), the sky pilot (Zena Grey), the artsy Asian kid (Jeremy Chu), the blind, black kid (Denzel Whitaker playing two stereotypes in one efficient package), the outcast hero (Max Thieriot) and his quirky friend (John Magaro). It turns out that every year on the anniversary of the Ripper’s death/disappearance; they perform a “Push the Ripper Back into the River” ritual supposedly to keep the Ripper from coming back and killing those babies born that night. This year, Bug (the outcast hero) is the one to do the pushing – except he chickens out and can’t do it. Not long after this, the first teen is killed: the Ripper has returned… or has he?
Let’s be frank: “My Soul To Take” is not a good movie. Or maybe it used to be. Maybe it was a great movie back in 1984 when “A Nightmare On Elm Street” introduced us to the back from the dead killer who preyed on an exclusive group of teens. Maybe it was great back in 1996 when “Scream” revitalized the slasher genre with a knowing wink to the genre stereotypes. But in 2010, it’s an endurance test that moves like a marathon runner with a broken leg and a club foot. Easily, this is the worst genre film I’ve seen this year. How do I come to that conclusion? Because when you’re a horror legend like Wes Craven and you have a multimillion dollar budget and you’re releasing during the Halloween season, it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect someone to bring their A-game. To use a sports analogy, it’s like having a talented football team that’s supposed to complete for the Super Bowl but opens the season 1-3 (coughcoughCowboyscoughcough). When you have so much going for you, so much more is expected. And I feel that’s the case here. Craven achieves nothing new, or even entertaining with this movie. It really feels like he put “Nightmare” and “Scream” in a blender, set it on frappe and then strained out all the best parts of each. The result was a bland, overlong study in what’s wrong with the genre today: It is Exhibit A.
At least it wasn’t in 3-D
Wait, it was in 3-D. Of course, you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. Aside from one or two interesting perspective shots that really made it noticeable, you wouldn’t know that this was a 3-D feature. That and the additional ticket cost. It is Exhibit B: the addition of an unnecessary element in order to jack up the price for the movie-goer.
“My Soul To Take”, in light of the evidence, decidedly falls into the “Trick” category this Halloween season. It combines a weak script with the standard formula of “pretty but annoying kids getting killed,” ponderous pacing and network TV gore to make not only a forgettable, but almost unforgivable film.