*No one can question Wes Craven’s credentials as a master of the horror genre, given his having crafted such classic spine-tinglers as Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream trilogy. But judging from the absolutely-dreadful My Soul to Take, it is only reasonable to wonder whether the legendary director might have lost his touch entirely.
For nowhere to be found are any of the distinguishing trademarks which have made Craven’s work so endearing, from the slowly-ratcheted, edge-of-the-seat tension to the cleverly-concealed plot twists to his terminally-hip characters’ running social commentary to a brand of gallows humor almost mocking the grisly goings-on.
Instead, what’s served up here is straight slasher fare overindulging in gratuitous gore. Consequently, this high attrition-rate affair aspires to nothing more lofty than vivid displays of guts and gore as the villain stacks up a pile of disemboweled corpses.
The 3-D adventure opens, courtesy of a gruesome flashback from 16 years ago, in the quaint town of Riverton, Massachusetts at the scene of a crime where the police ostensibly ended the bloody reign of terror of a savage serial killer (Raul Esparza). Although this madman with multiple personalities stabbed his pregnant wife to death prior to perishing in a fiery ambulance crash himself, doctors were miraculously able to save the life of the couple’s unborn son, Adam, aka “Bug” (Max Thieriot).
According to local legend, just before expiring, the Riverton Ripper vowed to return from the grave to slay any baby born there that evening. Fast-forward to the present, where we are introduced to affable, if naïve Bug and his half-dozen classmates at Riverton High who happen to share that same fateful birthday. Conveniently, each is a readily-recognizable stereotype, ranging from the beefy school bully (Nick Lashaway), to the perky cheerleader (Paulina Olszynski), to the proselytizing Jesus freak (Zena Grey), to the prescient blind kid (Denzel Whitaker), to the practical joker (John Magaro) to the nerdy Asian (Jeremy Chu).
The chickens start coming home to roost right after the motley septet shares a wild Sweet Sixteen celebration in the woods, when one of them is attacked on the way home from the swinging soiree by a shadowy figure sporting a mask and wielding a knife with “VENGEANCE” inscribed on the blade. Soon, the body is found floating in the river, and everybody figures out that either the Ripper never died, or has reincarnated as one of them, a thinly-veiled reference to the picture’s title.
The senseless slaughter only escalates at this juncture, of course, as people are picked off by the psychopath one-by-one. Too bad none of the characters are developed in a way to make you root for any of them, as their trite dialogue borders on the laughable.
Craven’s lame excuse for a plot doesn’t hang together, and the story’s flaws are compounded by a total technical meltdown, including such poor editing that you never even get any scares that make you shriek and leap out of your skin. As for the 3-D feature, I exited the theater still anticipating the first special effect to make the investment wrthwhile.
My Soul to Take might not be Wes Craven’s best film, but it’s certainly his worst.
Poor (0 stars)
Rated R for sexual references, pervasive profanity and graphic, gory violence.
Running time: 107 Minutes
Distributor: Rogue Pictures
To see a trailer for My Soul to Take, visit: