Let us here at PoP! guide you through a minefield of properties that seem full of win from the word go, but which once you crack them open have you shouting… It’s a Trap!
Written and directed by Wes Craven
Starring Max Theriot, John Magaro, Emily Meade, and Denzel Whitaker
Veteran writer/director Wes Craven is lauded by many as one of the greatest living figures of the horror genre. This is of course the man who directed the first installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street series and kickstarted the horror resurgence of the mid-nineties with his Scream films. When you look past those two popular franchises, however, it gets harder to find much else that lives up to Craven’s lauded reputation within the horror community. Many of Craven’s offerings from the past decade have failed to please either general audiences or hardcore horror fans. Aside from his just-okay 2005 thriller Red Eye, I haven’t seen much of his recent output, but if his 2010 bomb My Soul To Take is any indication of how he makes horror films nowadays, it may be safe to say that the 72-year old director is definitely past his prime.
Like nearly every slasher film ever made in the post-Scream era, My Soul To Take is set in a small town in which the entire community is plagued by a deranged serial killer. The movie begins sixteen years in the past amongst television reports of a mad slasher dubbed The Ripper who is terrorizing the citizens of Riverton, Massachussetts. We quickly find out that The Ripper is a schizophrenic man who kills his pregnant wife and attempts to kill his young daughter before he is shot by the police. After the ambulence meant to take the killer to the hospital wrecks, The Ripper’s body disappears into the swamp. The movie then cuts to sixteen years later, the seven children who were born the very day that The Ripper disappeared are participating in what we are told is a yearly ritual in which one of them pretends to fight off an effigy of The Ripper to prevent his spirit from coming back and killing them off one by one. This year, the responsibility of killing The Ripper falls on the movie’s protagonist Adam “Bug” Hellerman (Max Theriot), a meek, troubled, and easily-startled young man. Before he has a chance to dispatch the fake killer, their ritual is broken up by the cops who tell them that they are breaking curfew. Because the ritual is not completed, The Ripper appears to return and quickly goes to work murdering the group of kids known as the “Riverton Seven,” while Bug keeps seeing visions of his newly departed classmates and begins to doubt his own sanity.
My Soul To Take is a mind-numbingly mediocre pastiche of nearly all the cliches found in many of the popular horror films that have come out in the past fifteen years. You have your small town setting, your group of doomed kids haunted by a curse, and, of course, you have your twist ending in which the script tries to explain everything that happened before. If this movie included random pop culture references, some intentional attempts at humor, and maybe a shot of full-frontal male nudity, it could have been sold as a Scary Movie sequel, which may have been a better idea, since it doesn’t work at all as a straight horror flick. The characters are dull and annoying, even more so than your typical horror movie, and the costume design for The Ripper is boring and unoriginal. There isn’t even enough gore and creative kills to interest hardcore horror fans. The most frustrating aspect of My Soul To Take is how inconsistent it is with its own storyline. It’s as if there were three drafts of this movie with three different outcomes and Craven just copied and pasted different parts of those drafts into one screenplay without checking to see if it all made sense. There are whole scenes in this film that make absolutely no sense in relation to the climax in which the identity of The Ripper is finally revealed and others that are never really explained. If ever there was a movie that needed an appearance from the “No Reason” guy from Rubber, it’s this one.
The fact that a veteran filmmaker like Craven not only directed My Soul To Take but also wrote the screenplay shows that he may have lost his ability to make quality horror films, at least those that aren’t sequels to already established properties. Instead of sticking to the kind of filmmaking that made him such a beloved figure in horror, here he was content to badly ape all the Scream knockoffs of the past fifteen years and lift a few aspects of the Final Destination series. My Soul To Take currently has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was one of the worst-reviewed films of 2010. Some have claimed that it’s worth seeing in a “so bad it’s good” mindset, but I wholeheartedly disagree. This movie is way too boring and pointless to even be enjoyed on that level. Based on this film and the underperforming Scream 4, which came out earlier this Spring, Wes Craven may be proving to audiences that horror filmmaking is a young man’s game and that perhaps he should give up while his reputation as a respected icon is still fairly intact. 1 out of 5 Condor Metaphors.