Coming from writer/director Wes Craven; the acclaimed horror creator behind works such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Last House on the Left, and The People Under the Stairs; My Soul to Take is the first horror film to have been both written and directed by Wes in 16 years, and follows a number of teenagers who become the victims of a string of brutal serial murders; where the prime suspect is a man presumed to have died 16 years earlier.
My Soul To Take opens with a blistering pace; diving right in to revealing the secret hobby of a schizophrenic serial killer (stabbing people until they tend to run out of breath), before he attempts to murder his entire family, the police who try to stop him, and even the paramedics employed to save his own life, gets involved in an explosion, and then lost in the wilderness (all within the first couple of minutes of the film); setting up a potentially supernatural storyline, and providing an urban legend which will haunt a specific group of the film’s children for their entire lives.
Exactly 16 years (to the day) since the events that led to the capture and untimely death of the killer dubbed ‘The Ripper’ in the small town of Riverton, a group of seven teenagers who were born on that same night come to celebrate their birthday, the fact that they were born on the same night as the dastardly killer (an event which has led them to dub themselves the Riverton Seven), and complete an annual ritual designed to stave of the Ripper’s soul, and prevent him from returning for another year and murdering the children (who apparently believe that they each inherited one of his split personalities); whereby one of the seven has to ‘kill’ an effigy of the killer, and drive him into the local lake; a ritual which is interrupted by the local police, and not fully finished by the time the children are chased away.
One specific child then begins to panic more than most; a quiet, reserved, and overly innocent boy (with a potentially dark past) named Bug (Max Thieriot, Chloe); a child whom many believe has not only been institutionalized previously in his life, but one whom many also believe has previously killed people, and now begins to watch in fear as his classmates, and the other members of the Riverton Seven start to be killed one by one.
The film is then just a waiting game, as Bug grows weirder and weirder (having strange visions, spouting odd voices and displaying his own schizophrenic behavior), and the viewers are subjected to watching as each of the Riverton Seven die in a range of unbelievably similar and immeasurably dull ways; ways that are completely generic, utterly unoriginal, and totally insignificant, as not a single member of the Riverton Seven, their parents, friends or teachers, have been developed enough to make anyone care if they live or die, or whether it’s one of them doing the killings, or The Ripper that has really come back from the dead.
Acting is borderline terrible from just about everyone onscreen, the dialogue is awful, the direction is uninspired (which is strange coming from an undeniable horror master), and the plot is not only convoluted and littered with holes, but frankly dull; making My Soul to Take an utter failure of a film that takes itself way too seriously, yet is so bad it almost feels as if it’s supposed to be a comedy (yet fails on that front as well, because everyone was clearly trying so hard to make their film); presenting much more blood than you would get in a kids movie, but somehow remaining more poorly written, more poorly acted, and even less scary than a classic episode of Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark?
While the film may be a failure in just about every possible respect, it’s thankfully not that bad to look at; as there’s strong levels of detail throughout out, a good degree of sharpness, and some fairly bold and lifelike colours that come coupled with consistently natural looking skintones, which aren’t hampered by any visible transfer issues, except for some fairly murky looking blacks, that tend to swallow a good bit of detail now and then.
By far the best aspect of the My Soul to Take DVD however, has to be its audio; a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that’s bold, brutal, unforgiving, and constantly active from the outset; containing plenty of ambience emanating from the rear channels, well positioned effects, and decent prioritisation, despite the fact that a fair bit of the dialogue becomes fuzzy and can easily become lost (often due to the speedy delivery of the actors, and the drivel they are talking, rather than a transfer issue).
Bass in constant, jolting, and fairly powerful, and well accented by the film’s score; which effectively fills the soundstage, and combines with the other effects to create a fairly engrossing 360 degree audio experience; where the main problem is not the poor sound quality, but the fact the film is so awful you won’t want to listen to it in its entirety.
Coming bundled with a selection of special features, the bonus content on the My Soul to Take DVD begins with a poor, and easily skippable, audio commentary; containing input from the director (who attempts to explain what’s going on, and provide some background info) and three of the film’s stars (who deliver nothing note worthy, and come across as quite tiresome); followed by a trailer for the film (which still doesn’t look amazing, but suggests that My Soul to Take could have been a half-decent film), and a number of dire deleted scenes, and alternate openings and endings (which are simply stunning; in that they are so poor; and should amaze anyone who watches them, by proving that there are still worse things than the mangled scenes that make up My Soul to Take.
The few fans that this movie eventually gains should be pleased with what’s on offer here; getting to here an acclaimed horror master talk you through his latest film as you watch it, and here the musings of the excitable young cast at the same time, as well as seeing the number of alternate openings, voiceovers, and scenes that could have made the final cut; but any casual viewer, or anyone who didn’t enjoy the film should stay away.
The Bottom Line:
My Soul to Take is definitely a film to skip, and not just one to miss because there are better things out there; it’s a film that should make you run for the hills because it’s that bad; as despite having a mildly acceptable horror premise, and coming from such a well recognised horror expert as Wes Craven, it fails on every feasible level; including having poor dialogue, a poor plot, terrible acting, non-existent character development, and even lacking in the classic horror gore-factor which can often make up for some of the previously mentioned hiccups.
Any Wes Craven fan (not to mention everyone else in general) would do well to ignore My Soul to Take, pretend it never happened, and simply revisit one of Craven’s old classics to see what a real horror should look like, as despite having decent picture quality, a solid audio track, and special features that should please its fans, the quality of this DVD release isn’t enough to make up for the awful feature it contains (and wouldn’t be even if they were faultless).
Unlike the majority of movies which are either a joy to watch, a bit of simple escapism, or possibly just some nice background noise, it takes a real effort, and feat of endurance, to sit through the entire runtime of My Soul to Take; a film that will have you itching to turn it off after only a few minutes, isn’t worth buying, and would even prove to be a waste of a free rental.
Horror’s may normally be a pretty safe bet (as in you tend to know what you’re getting, and can forgive the odd plot hole or bit of badly delivered dialogue, as they’re a bit of fun) but what you get with My Soul to Take is neither fun, scary, interesting, or even a horror; meaning that if you’re looking to watch a decent horror you would be better served by revisiting a Wes Craven classic (such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, or The Last House on the Left), because if we’re honest, watching My Soul to Take is about as frightening as a new born baby with the word “boo” stitched into its onesie.