Wes Craven in the third dimension? You’re telling me he didn’t jump on this bandwagon back in the 80s when it returned with a vengeance back when it first made its comeback? He waited until the second time around to hop on everyone’s favorite 1950s movie gimmick? Well, if you say so.
Sixteen years ago, a schizophrenic serial killer dubbed the Riverton Ripper terrorized a small town in Massachusetts. He killed several people with a signature fold-out knife, including his wife. He’s about to kill his daughter when the police finally intervene, tipped off by the Ripper’s psychiatrist and one of the good personalities. They gun the killer down, but like all movie killers, he has a nasty habit of coming back to life because he’s just too evil to die. Multiple gunshots, stabbings, and a car wreck later, and the Ripper may or may not be dead.
On midnight of the night of the Ripper’s supposed death, seven babies are born, some on time, and some prematurely. Sixteen years later, the Riverton Seven have settled into life as high school students, each with their own little niche and each with a nice introduction from the town jock/bully, Brandon (Nick Lashaway). There’s the creative Asian kid Jay (Jeremy Chu), the blind black kid Jerome (Denzel Whitaker), the aforementioned bully, the religious freak Penelope (Zena Grey), the prettiest girl in school Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), the picked on kid Alex Dunkelman (John Magaro), and the mentally unsound Bug (Max Thieriot).
Every year on Ripper Day (aka their birthdays), the seven gather to symbolically slay the Ripper and drive him back into the river. This year, Bug fails, so when people start turning up dead, it just might be The Ripper back from the grave.
I deliberately didn’t sit down to write my review of My Soul To Take immediately after watching the movie, but it didn’t matter that I slept on it, because I’m still pissed off. It’s not that the movie wasn’t entertaining, because it had some fun moments. I’ve seen a lot worse. It’s not that there wasn’t blood, because there was.
What’s got my dander up about the film is that it is billed as Wes Craven’s first 3D horror film. Technically, that’s true, but if you took the stupid glasses off my face and subtracted two dollars from the price of the movie ticket, I would not have known the difference. Literally, there is no creative use of the third dimension effect in the movie whatsoever.
There is absolutely nothing in My Soul To Take that merits having 3D involved. No cool use of depth like in Coraline, no blatant playing to the convention of 3D like My Bloody Valentine 3D, nothing. My Soul To Take makes the 3D in Clash Of The Titans look like the 3D in Avatar. Apparently, like Clash, My Soul To Take was converted into 3D after shooting, which probably explains why the movie is as flat as the top of the Frankenstein monster’s head.
My Soul To Take is far from a great movie, or even a good movie, but it has a few moments even if it further reinforces what Cursed showed us all back in 2005 (that Wes Craven doesn’t seem to have it anymore). The movie is one of the sort you see on late night cable television, put together by some straight-to-video production company like Tempe Entertainment or The Asylum.
It’s not badly acted, but there’s no real outstanding moments (the non-bug-eyed Steve Buscemi act-alike John Magaro is one of the movie’s more consistently good elements as Alex). There’s a lot of corn syrup blood, but no jaw-dropping gore effects. It’s competently done, but there’s nothing creative in terms of edits, camera angles, etc. There are no groaningly bad lines, but there’s no real wit, either. The movie’s not good, and it’s not entertainingly bad. It’s simply mediocre.
You’d think that Wes Craven, being both writer and director on this production for the first time since 1994’s underrated New Nightmare, would want to make a huge splash with this flick, but instead it seems as if he’s content to merely follow Kevin Williamson’s high school horror template, just without all the meta and with a few more limp jokes. Remember when Scream came out, and immediately after there was a glut of slasher movies featuring masked killers, smart assed teenagers, no nudity, and the occasional laugh? Well, that’s what My Soul To Take feels like, an average Scream clone.
If that’s what you’re into, you’ll probably be entertained, but if you’re looking for anything scary or revolutionary, check out other filmmakers. Craven’s coasting on his reputation (and milking his famous franchises) these days. It’s sad to see the first Master of Horror become a sad old Grandpa of Horror, retelling and rehashing old stories for his bored Grandchildren of Horror.
US correspondent Ron Hogan does enjoy a good 23-year-old high school student, of which My Soul To Take has many, but he doesn’t enjoy being forced to pay extra for unused 3D. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.