Old 10-16-2010, 10:22 PM
Wes Craven's My Soul to Take

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



My Soul to Take (2010)

"My Soul to Take" is one of the most banal horror films I've seen in the past few years, which makes it surprising that it comes from the mind of horror master Wes Craven, who gave birth to the legendary horror icon Freddy Krueger. There's just something about this latest project of his that feels so devoid of life. One has to wonder, is Craven's horrific imagination dried up?

The film begins by introducing Abel (Raúl Esparza), a man who has a multiple personality disorder and has been responsible for a number of murders. After killing his wife and nearly killing his daughter, he is captured by the police, but not before being shot several times. However, this doesn't prevent him from causing the ambulance he's in to crash on the way to the hospital. After this, Abel mysteriously disappears.

Sixteen years later, a group of high school kids gather together on the day "The Ripper," as the murderer came to be known, was killed for an annual ritual of warding off his spirit. It is also the day that seven of these kids were born including Bug (Max Thieriot) and his best friend Alex (John Magaro). Strange things begin to happen as one by one the kids whose birthdays fall on that day begin to get killed off. Stranger still, the events seem to revolve around The Ripper. Could he have come back from the dead to take his revenge?

This is another film that wasn't screened in advance for critics, and by now you know that I set the bar pretty low for films like this that the studios must believe to be pretty bad in the first place. When they do that, it's basically the same as putting their own negative stamp on it, so what's the difference if others are going to say it's bad anyway?

As for the movie itself, it's formulaic, predictable, and goes for the easiest scares it can possibly get, which is basically to have someone or something pop into frame out of nowhere accompanied by a sharp musical sting. There's very little suspense to be had here as the film spends most of its time showing us how Bug is just a very strange kid. Meanwhile, some of the other characters, who have barely been established, are killed off with very little reason for the audience to care.

Somewhere in the middle of the film, there's even a strange interlude that involves Bug trying to find out what some of the girls think about him by hiding his phone in the girls' bathroom. This strange section has absolutely nothing to do with the plot and yet it ends up being one of the more interesting parts of the film, which is kind of sad when you think about it.

There's also a part in the middle that comes close to turning the film into a comedy. As we follow Bug around, we find out that he too is developing a kind of multiple personality disorder in which he talks and acts like several of the other kids born on the day of The Ripper's demise. If Craven thought this would be scary or unsettling, he misjudged rather badly. It comes off more as Bug's humorous impersonations of these people rather than whatever Craven was going for (a connection between Bug and the others perhaps).

Aside from the pop-out scares, most of the other standard clichés are here. We are constantly led to think the killer is one person, but then it "surprisingly" turns out to be someone else. Then there's my personal favorite, which is where the police show up right after the story is resolved. Standard horror movie cops are apparently very slow, or they just want people to deal with their own problems.

Wes Craven has had a fascinating career which really took off once he wrote and directed the classic "A Nightmare on Elm Street." After that, he would make some other notable horror/thrillers ranging from good to great including "New Nightmare," his final touch on the "Nightmare" series, "Scream," a fantastic satire of horror movies, and "Red Eye," an underrated thrillride. Then there were some that were not all that good including the dull "The Serpent and the Rainbow" and the disappointing "Scream 3." Apparently he recently finished filming "Scream 4," so it'll be interesting to see if he is able to breathe new life into that franchise. Hopefully he won't let the failure of "My Soul to Take" stop him from trying to scare his fans once again. 2/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 10-17-2010 at 01:37 PM..
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