Film: My Soul To Take *
Release Date: Out Now
Running Time: 102 mins
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Max Thieriot, Emily Meade, Frank Grillo, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey
Reviewer: Adam Wing
If you had to choose one word to describe the directorial career of Wes Craven, you would probably go with something along the lines of ‘inconsistent’. Before and after granting the movie world with one of its biggest icons, master of horror Craven has had more than his fair share of misses.
For every Scream there has been a Vampire in Brooklyn, for every Red Eye a Cursed - don’t even get me started on Deadly Blessing. Both Shocker and The People Under the Stairs hit the mark, as did early contenders The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left. The problem is of course, until the release of slasher sequel Scream 4; the last entry on his C.V. will always read My Soul To Take. It’s a good job we don’t have long to wait then, or then again, maybe not - perhaps we should all be lowering our expectations right about now.
Written and directed by Wes Craven, My Soul To Take introduces the world to a whole new bogeyman - the terrifying tale of the Riverton Ripper. As legend has it, the Ripper swore he would return to murder the seven children born on the night he died. Now, 16 years later, people are disappearing again - this is the part where you need to pay close attention. Has the psychopath come back to take revenge? Did he survive the night he was left for dead? Has he been reincarnated as one of the seven teens, and will you stick around long enough to find out? Only one of the seven has the answers, and Wes is going to make you work damn hard to find it, but if they hope to save their friends they must face an evil that just won't rest. Well I say that, the chances of a sequel are pretty slim now so there’s a good chance he’ll get some rest tonight.
The opening ten minutes, rather than setting the tone of the movie, only serves to confuse and frustrate. Structurally My Soul To Take is a mess from start to finish. Compare the first act to that of the original Scream and the differences are obvious. Events are explained away as the movie progresses, but it’s hard to invest in a film so out of tune. The Scream series introduced us to a group of likeable teenagers, but Craven’s latest is blessed with neither the screenwriting talent of Kevin Williamson, nor the acting credentials of Neve Campbell and friends.
Leading man Adam (Max Thieriot) is impossible to believe in, largely because he’s so incredibly wet. His character is supposed to be troubled, but Thieriot is incapable of channelling the inner demons required for the role, leaving us with a whiny teenager who rarely convinces. The rest of the cast is made up of disposable teen fodder, none of whom seem capable of making a lasting impression - unless of course, you’re talking about on the end of a very sharp knife.
Craven frames real world events with dreamlike surroundings, reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but nowhere near as effective. Adam’s hallucinations lack credibility and invention, feeling formulaic rather than frightful. Not only that, but Wes regularly mistakes verbal aggression for genuine fear, and make no mistake about it, The Riverton Ripper is the nastiest villain he has ever put on screen. The bogeymen in Craven’s classics have always been a little bit comical - Elm Street, Scream, The People Under the Stairs - memorable villains of course, but not entirely clever. The Riverton Ripper swears, stabs and swipes in all the appropriate places, but fails to set the screen on fire with a dreadful costume and a very bad hair day.
Unable to change gears, My Soul To Take stumbles into an overly talky final act, and a fearless finale free of any tension - the final confrontation itself wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of Scooby Doo. The acting is poor, there are precious few scares, and the characters are blessed with memorable dire-logue like “It’s not ok for everybody to be killing each other all the time” - well I’m glad we cleared that one up. The worst crime of all is that Wes doesn’t seem to be trying, and if this is a sign of things to come, then the prospects of a second Scream trilogy are escaping through the cat flap as we speak. The good news is that Wes has picked himself up before, so chances are this is just another blip on his colourful career.
My Soul To Take lacks passion, heart and scares. Not to mention good writing, a memorable villain and worthwhile performances. It’s a mess of a movie that would probably have Ghost Face running for cover, a horror film in which the soul of the title was clearly lost before filming began.