Horrible 3D aside, Wes Craven shows that he’s still got it.
Let me start off by saying what I hated most about this film, and that would be the 3D. I’m not a supporter of the latest 3D trend, as it’s more often than not a tacked on feature to grab more money at the box-office. My Soul to Take promotes it being in 3D as much as it promotes anything else, and yet, the entire film has no scenes in it which required a third dimension at any point. While they’re the most overused horror movie 3D tricks, there were no weapons thrown at the screen, or gouged out eyeballs falling onto the viewers lap; not that it would have justified the price of admission, but at least it would have given a reason to wearing the glasses the entire time. This is the worst use of 3D I’ve seen yet, and looking at all the theaters playing the film around here, I had no other option to see it in, so a big thumbs down to the studio for needlessly tacking 3D on an otherwise solid film.
Now with that out of the way, let’s focus on the good, which I’m happy to report, there’s a lot of if you’re a fan of the teenage slasher film. Now when I say teenage slasher film, I don’t mean teenagers being killed (though that’s what it is as well), I mean it like teenagers are the target audience and will likely enjoy it the most. For that same reason, it also has to be put out there that there are no real gruesome kill scenes (a good chunk of them happen off-screen) and it takes place in a small town where the main characters are 16 year-old high school students. We’re not talking Scream age high school students who could easily pass for college kids, we’re talking your run of the mill young adults who look the part, and do a damn good job of it. Don’t get me wrong, the film is still violent; but make no mistake about it, this isn’t aimed at the hardcore horror crowd.
The film takes place in the small town of Riverton, and tells the story of seven teens who were all born prematurely on the exact same night that a local serial killer, The Riverton Ripper, was presumed killed 16 years earlier. Each year on their birthday, the group, dubbed The Riverton Seven, gather with an audience of their peers at the spot the Ripper was said to be killed, to ward off the evil spirit that still haunts the town. They do this by selecting one of the seven to ‘kill’ the Riverton Ripper if he appears after they summon him, and since it’s all set-up to ease their minds of the legend, a costumed puppet appears right on cue, waiting to be killed (pushed over) by the chosen one. The problem is, this particular year, that job falls to Bug (Max Thieriot), a particularly quiet, if not slower member of the group, who makes no attempt to hide his fear that The Ripper, and the anniversary fill him with. Unable to strike down the puppet before a police car arrives to break up the party, Bug fears he’s gone against tradition, and now they’re all doomed to face the wrath of the Ripper. His friends try to reassure him that it’s all just superstitious mumbo-jumbo, and not to worry about it; but when members of the group start turning up dead, do they have to fear the return of the Ripper, or has evil found a new home inside one of them?
It’s been almost 15 years since Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer set the slasher world on fire, and since then there have been many attempts to keep that fire burning by many lesser films. With so many failed attempts dousing the genre fire, and leaving nothing but a few burning embers in their wake, it’s no surprise that My Soul to Take will have an uphill battle to face in order to prove itself as the kindling that might spark things up once again.
When facing that uphill battle, there’s nobody in the horror world you want on your side more than Wes Craven, and this film has him twice over. As both the writer and director of My Soul to Take, Craven once again proves that he’s got what it takes to craft a slasher film that’s not only intense, but smart, cool, and brilliantly acted. He knows what he wants from this film, and he doesn’t try to bog it down with access gore, or hollow characters to be used for no other reason than kill-fodder.
The acting in the film is something that definitely needs to be addressed, as I’d be hard-pressed to name a film of this type in recent memory with acting as strong as this one has. All the actors play their parts well, and definitely help make this movie as enjoyable as it is. Thieriot leads the way with his masterful work as Bug, a slow, yet innocent student who has trouble with reality at some points. Enough good things can’t be said about his work in this film, and I have no doubt it will lead to us seeing more of him in the future.
Making up the rest of the group are Alex (John Magaro), who is Bug’s best friend. Magaro does a great job here, and his chemistry with Thieriot couldn’t be better. The two fit perfectly as the outcasts of the group, yet play off of one another like the ying and yang that best friends are. Then there’s Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), who’s the ‘beautiful’ girl at school, as well as Bug’s crush; Brandon (Nick Lashaway), who’s the tough guy jock; the blind, yet good-hearted Jerome, (Denzel Whitaker); Jay (Jeremy Chu), the easy going guy who just wants to have fun, play; and lastly, Penelope (Zena Grey), a true follower of God, insomuch that she believes she speaks to him personally. Outside of the group, mention has to be given to Emily Meade, who plays Fang, the master puppeteer and overall girl to be feared at the high school. Meade does standout work here as well, and will hopefully be someone we see more of.
My Soul to Take isn’t perfect, and there are bits and pieces you can pick apart when it all comes down to it; such as, some of the camera angles were awkward at times in an attempt to justify the 3D, though ended up just making it worse. Also, some of the kills seemed rushed. I don’t mean that the individual death scenes needed to be drawn out more; in fact, one of the things I liked about the film was that the death scenes were actually quite fast and effective, catching you off guard instead of the cliché killer chasing someone forever before finally coming out on top. I meant that there’s actually a decent amount of story involved in the film, so at times it feels like they had to rush to squeeze in a few kills in order to keep the numbers down by the end of it all. Though while flawed, I found most of the above to be forgivable due to just how much fun I had watching the movie.
While it should definitely not be seen in 3D if given the option, and is the epitome of all that is wrong with the 3D revolution hitting theaters as of late, My Soul to Take shows that Craven can still deliver the goods. It’s a fun, smart, original teen slasher film that should definitely not be missed; especially this time of year.
Director: Wes Craven Notable Cast: Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Emily Meade, Paulina Olszynski, Nick Lashaway, Denzel Whitaker, Jeremy Chu, Zena Grey Writer(s): Wes Craven
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.