Director – Wes Craven
Cast -Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Paulina Olszynski, Jeremy Chu, Emily Meade, Raúl Esparza, Jessica Hecht, Frank Grillo, Danai Gurira, Harris Yulin, Shareeka Epps
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Being a huge fan of the horror genre, I can appreciate what Wes Craven has contributed to us horror fans. While I am not his biggest fan, or really a fan of him in general, I do want him to succeed in what he does because he has given us so much to enjoy for decades to come. The Last House on the Left remains one of my favorite exploitation films of all time, and he created one of horror’s greatest villains in Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare On Elm Street, so simply put…the guy knows horror. Given he has not released a feature horror film in nearly 5 years(since 2005’s Red Eye), it became a pretty darn BIG deal that he was finally going to give us a horror film not Scream related. While I wanted this film to truly succeed, I tried my best not to go into this watch with high expectations, which proved to be a very wise choice given that this film is quite mediocre at best.
In My Soul To Take we follow a group of 7 teens all born on the same day, a day in which their small sleepy town’s most infamous and brutal serial killer was apparently killed, although his body was never found. On that very night he vowed to kill each of the children born on that day, and although 16 years have passed since that night, this will be an anniversary for the small town to remember forever. The young teens are picked off one by one by an unseen killer, leading some to believe the killer himself was never killed, or has manifested his soul inside one of the teens. One of the teens, “miracle baby“ “Bug” Heller(Max Thieriot), has suffered terrible nightmares since birth, but little does he know…only he holds the key to who the killer is. However, in order to save himself and his friends he must deal with a dark buried secret he never sees coming.
This is a film that will leave a sad and hollow feeling in the hearts of many horror fans. Why? Well, My Soul To Take comes with so much potential, but after every positive moment the film falls flat on its face with something lackluster. Plus, the 3D technology involved in the film seems to be a very WEAK attempt to cash in on some extra cash given we get hardly anything 3D worthy in this film. All in all I noticed maybe 3 scenes which truly involved 3D technology, the rest of the film just came off as another other non-3D film. I am unaware if any non-3D prints were sent to theaters, so be aware that if you are expecting 3D in this one be prepared to start referring to this watch as My Money To Waste.
Wes Craven’s direction is fairly positive, but sadly it did not save the film. We get a very sweet visual tone which aids Craven in doing one thing that he does best,…making any home look pretty damn spooky. His unique visuals and positive camerawork make this is a visual treat to watch, and he manages to set the atmosphere pretty well right from the get-go. He adds a fairly fun Craven-esque comedic feel at times, which I would not say that I prefer but it goes nice for us horror fans so I appreciated it. I however did not like nearly ALL of the performances his actors gave us, which confirmed one of my most dreaded ideas going into the film…that this could come off too “teeny”, even for an R-rated watch. I really wanted to see a mature effort from Craven, even if the storyline is a cliché slasher film. I have just grown tired of the usual teen(non-campy “teen”) element we get from some of his latter films. Plus, to make matters worse, he went to the dark side and gave us some crappy CGI gore during some of the gorier scenes, scenes that could have been easily executed with live-action gore. Laziness? Maybe. However, given George A. Romero has gone this direction in some of his recent films(Survival of the Dead, Land of the Dead) as well, we may be seeing a decline of the very directors that made this genre so much fun.
Story-wise is where this film really takes turns for the worse, and shows that Wes Craven has some serious writing problems. The overall story follows most of the usual slasher ideas, with a vengeful killer who was “killed” by may not in fact be dead, and a group of teens being killed off one by one until we come to a shocking conclusion revealing who the killer is. I had no problem with this, because I completely dig the cliché slasher story, it was the other elements thrown into the film and HOW they were given to us that had me lost and uninterested. I did not like most of the “teeny” elements thrown in, which came mostly in the form of the film’s dialogue. Most of my bitterness is mental, mainly because it has been such a long time since an original Wes Craven film, and for him to give me a bunch of not-so-bratty teens getting hacked up was a bit of a letdown. For me to fully explain my other negative feelings towards this film I would have to deliver a boatload of spoilers, so what I can tell you will be limited. Basically, this film is too confusing for its own good. I had no problems “getting it”, but there were so many darn twists and turns that it becomes quite frustrating for the viewer, especially for someone expecting a slasher film. This is not Memento, so keeping the viewer in the dark for so darn long without anything interested to keep the viewer’s interest really messed up this experience for me. I had heard some of this negative banter going into the film, but I expected it to be positive given I enjoy a good “whodunit” that keeps me in the dark, but too many of the twists and turns were just not very interesting, and by the beginning of the third act I noticed myself and many other moviegoers becoming restless in our seats. The “twist” at the end was not very surprising, as Craven really did not leave too much hidden by the time we get to the ending. There was no shock whatsoever, so those of you expecting a sweet climax may be disappointed in that. I did however like the usage of the killer, and it is obvious Craven gave us horror fans a few things to hold on to positively due to the film’s plot. The usual slasher clichés are present, and they make for some guaranteed enjoyment despite the scenes being short-lived by nothing too interested before and after them. While most of the critics seem to overly hate this film, I think us horror fans, and especially Wes Craven fans, can find some positives in this film, which compounded with the numerous negatives make this a mediocre watch at best.
Overall, this return to the genre for Wes Craven harbors much potential but falls flat on its face sometimes due to some ill-written elements thrown in. Craven’s direction is positive, and the overall story is fun, but too many uninteresting twists and turns make this a film who’s climax you will be begging to come by the beginning of the third act. Only recommended as a “dollar movie” or rental if you are curious enough and don’t mind wasting a few bucks to see Craven do his thing.