Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Max Thieriot, Henry Lee Hopper, Zena Grey, Frank Grillo, Denzel Whitaker, Shareeka Epps, Emily Meade, Nick Lashaway, John Magaro, Paulina Olszynski
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: www.iamrogue.com/mysoultotake
Opening Day: 2 December 2010
From writer/director Wes Craven comes a suspense thriller that warns us evil is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you have any chance at beating it, you’ll have to fight for your life.
In the sleepy town of Riverton, legend tells of a serial killer who swore he would return to murder the seven children born the night he died. Now, 15 years later, people are disappearing again. Has the psychopath been reincarnated as one of the seven teens, or did he survive the night he was left for dead? Only one of the kids knows the answer.
Adam “Bug” Heller (Max Thierot) was supposed to die on the bloody night his father went insane. Unaware of his dad’s terrifying crimes, he has been plagued by nightmares since he was a baby. But if Bug hopes to save his friends from the monster that’s returned, he must face an evil that won’t rest…until it finishes the job it began the day he was born.
*MY SOUL TO TAKE is only released in 2D in Singapore
To fans of Western horror, the name Wes Craven is something of a legend. This is the guy who created one of the most iconic characters in horror- Freddy Krueger- in the “Nightmare in Elm Street” series. This is the guy who had the smarts to turn the genre on its head and give it a new breath of fresh air in the “Scream” trilogy, and come next year, quadrology. This is the guy whose horror movies- “The Hills Have Eyes”, “The Last House on the Left” and of course the “Nightmare” series- are being remade by a new breed of filmmakers eager to be the next him.
Naturally then, the fact that “My Soul to Take” is Wes Craven’s first film in five years (since 2005’s “Red Eye”) and first that the horror-meister has written and directed in fifteen years comes with certain expectations. Indeed, all the usual elements of a classic Wes Craven horror are present- a small town with hidden secrets from the past; a legend that is the stuff of campfire stories; and hipper-than-thou teen-speak- but unfortunately this is far from any classic. In fact, it probably qualifies as one of Wes Craven’s career worst, if not the worst.
The opening in itself is baffling. A tightly condensed prologue is meant to set up the legend of the Riverton Ripper, a family man with multiple personality disorder including a particularly murderous one that has turned him into the town serial killer. He tries to kill his pregnant wife, the police rush in and shoot him a couple of times, he wakes rather miraculously to return the favour, the police fire some more, then the ambulance crashes on the way to the hospital and he disappears. Meanwhile on that very night, seven babies are born at the hospital.
The catch here is this- each one of his seven souls has taken over one of the babies, so one of them will eventually turn into a murderer. It’s best you remember this, since the frenzied and convoluted manner Wes Craven tells the story makes it unnecessarily confusing. Fast-forward sixteen years later, when the Ripper has become the stuff of local legend, and a traditional prank played on one of them, Bug (Max Thierot), goes awry and apparently brings back the Ripper.
Unfolding entirely over the course of one day, Craven spends the first half of the film setting up his seven characters- the hot jock (Nick Lashaway), the sweet hottie (Paulina Olszynski), the religious chick (Zena Grey), the token Asian (Jeremy Chu), the African American blind boy (Denzel Whitaker), and Max’s best friend Alex (John Magaro)- before the start of the blodletting. Sadly, none of the characters are any more than cinematic stereotypes, so whichever order they eventually meet their death doesn’t really matter to the audience. The same goes for Craven’s clumsy writing, his attempts at witty exchanges falling awfully flat.
By the time the Ripper comes calling, it’s pretty much a case of ‘too little too late’. Aside from not shying away from the gore, Craven botches any buildup to the climax by piling on the deaths too swiftly. Before any of the characters understand what is going on, they have already been off-ed or are in the process of getting off-ed. Even the extended climax done the Craven way (i.e. several characters trapped in the house with a killer in their midst a la “Scream”) feels derivative and unconvincing.
The only consolation therefore is that by the end of the movie, you won’t get a headache from watching the movie in 3D, as folks in the US would have (the movie is only available in 2D here). But the real horror is that Wes Craven may have finally, after an illustrious career stretching almost 40 years, lost his horror mojo. “My Soul to Take” is a major disappointment from Craven- let’s just hope he still remembers how to make an audience “Scream” next year.
(Wes Craven hits a career low with this lame rehash of his earlier classics but none of their scares nor ingenuity)
Review by Gabriel Chong