Reviews

My Soul to Take

Opening Friday, October 8

Cast:

Max Thieriot as Bug

John Magaro as Alex

Denzel Whitaker as Jerome

Zena Grey as Penelope

Nick Lashaway as Brandon

Paulina Olszynski as Brittany

Jeremy Chu as Jay

Emily Meade as Fang

Raúl Esparza as Abel

Jessica Hecht as May

Frank Grillo as Paterson

Danai Gurira as Jeanne-Baptiste

Harris Yulin as Dr. Blake

Shareeka Epps as Chandelle

Elena Hurst as Maria

Dennis Boutsikaris as Principal Pratt

Felix Solis as Mr. Kaiser

Trevor St. John as Lake

Shannon Maree Walsh as Melanie Pratt (as Shannon Walsh)

Alexandra Wilson as Sarah

Eric Zuckerman as Gus

Alberto Vazquez as Officer Ramirez

Lou Sumrall as Quint

Directed by Wes Craven

Story:

Sixteen years after the serial killer known as the “Riverton Ripper” is caught and presumably killed, 7 teenagers born on that same day start being killed off by an unknown assailant. In the center of it is Bug (Max Thieriot), a troubled teen with identity problems who starts taking on personality traits of the murdered teens, but is he the killer or just the next victim?

Analysis:

The return of Wes Craven to the multiplex is certainly something worth celebrating, because this master of horror originated so many of the scare techniques that not only influenced most of today’s horror directors but can be found in almost any modern horror film. With that in mind, we’re saddened to say that Craven has returned with a movie that’s easily the worst movie of his career for so many reasons it may be hard to fit them in a review of a reasonable length.

The introductory prologue involves the “Riverton Ripper,” a brutal serial killer, and a family man named Abel Plenkov (Raúl Esparza), who suffers from multiple personalities, something he only realizes when he finds the Ripper’s trademark knife in his hand. Before he can stop himself, Abel has eviscerated his pregnant wife as the police and paramedics show up for a showdown. After killing a few more of them, Abel is taken away in an ambulance that crashes and the Ripper disappears. Sixteen years later, we meet seven kids celebrating the night before their respective birthdays, all of them born on the day the Riverton Ripper supposedly died. First, there’s Brandon the school jock and Brittany the cute blonde, Penelope the bible-thumper, Alex the jokester, Jerome and Jay. There’s also Bug, the brooding loner, who has an even greater connection to the Ripper… have you figured it out yet? You can almost kiss most of the kids goodbye from the moment they’re introduced, because they’re essentially the type of slasher-fodder Craven has specialized in for decades.

After the first teen is killed without much thought put into it, we spend the next twenty minutes or so following Bug and Alex as they get into all sorts of mischief at school, raising the ire of Fang, the Goth chick who controls everything that happens at the school. We watch the guys doing some sort of class project where the latter dresses up in a condor outfit and vomits on the jock, making them even bigger targets than they were before. They also bug the girls’ room so they can find out what Fang’s crew have planned. As much time that’s spent on these high school hijinks, none of it seems to serve much purpose in moving the story forward and it’s more than frustrating how much time is wasted on it. It’s fairly clear someone really needed to tell Craven, “Hey, Wes, kids no longer talk or act like this anymore, but when you’re directing your own script, who is going to take on that responsibility?

Otherwise, good luck keeping track of any of the plot despite the horrendous amount of exposition where everything is explained beyond any point that’s necessary, since you’re likely to have figured out most of it in the first few minutes. At the same time, a lot of it is about planting red herrings just to confuse matters. For instance, what is the point of all those scenes of Max Thieriot talking to himself in different voices except to show he has similar split personality issues to the Ripper, so we immediately assume he’s following in the Ripper’s footsteps?

From the over-the-top performance by Raúl Esparza that opens the movie to the central casting of the teen ensemble, the acting across the board is terrible, although it’s not like anyone has a particularly good script to work from. Thieriot isn’t that bad, nor is Emily Meade as his arch-nemesis Fang, but John Magaro should receive some sort of aware for creating one of the most obnoxious and annoying film characters this year… and that’s in a year where Taylor Lautner has appeared in two movies!

It’s bad enough that a talented young actor like Denzel Whitaker is given such a nothing role like playing a blind kid who serves little purpose to the story, but Shareeka Epps, who had one of the most impressive debuts for an actor in “Half Nelson,” is completely wasted in a role as part of Fang’s gang where she shows up, says a single line, then is gone from the rest of the movie. Regular supporting actor Jessica Hecht is given the meatiest role of her career as Bug’s adoptive mother, not really a shocker, and really, the only unexpected twist involves Fang.

Sure, the kills are basically fine, not really offering anything groundbreaking from the director whose penchant for killing teens is legendary. Most of these kills happen so fast and are done in such a throwaway fashion, there’s absolutely no satisfaction in seeing any of the characters killed. Regardless of how much time has been spent trying to develop these one-note characters, we’re never given any reason to care about any of them, even Bug. Needless to say, that’s is a bad thing for any genre of movie.

The movie just gets worse and worse as it becomes completely mired in its own convoluted storytelling, the last act taking place almost entirely inside Bug’s house where he proceeds to get into a fistfight with his sister, argue with his mother then confronts his buddy Alex to figure out which of them is the killer. Good luck trying to figure out what’s going on as even more red herrings are thrown into the mix. Is Bug the killer? Is it Alex? Do we even care anymore at this point? The craziest bit is when it’s time for Whitaker’s blind character to be offed, though he’s not going to go quietly before explaining in full detail exactly what happened to him, a monologue that goes on seemingly for minutes, getting funnier and funnier as he starts talking about climbing the side of the building… wait a second, isn’t his character BLIND? That’s just one of many examples of the sloppiness the movie exudes, and it’s par for the course for a movie that gets so ridiculous you’ll have trouble stifling your laughter the longer it goes on.

If all that wasn’t bad enough to make you angry, then go ahead and spend the extra money to see the movie in 3D for the worst possible waste-of-money 3D conversion you’re likely to see, even compared to “Clash of the Titans” and “The Last Airbender.” There is nothing about this movie that required it to be in 3D in the first place, and for most of the movie, you can take your 3D glasses off and not notice any significant difference except that it’s slightly blurrier. This just adds even more insult to injury for a movie that probably would have been better off made in “no-D.”

The Bottom Line:

There are movies so bad they’re unwatchable and movies so bad they’re entertaining. “My Soul to Take” is neither, and it wouldn’t be quite as disheartening that it’s one of the year’s worst movies if it didn’t have Wes Craven’s name in front of it. It’s easily the worst movie of Craven’s career and not even remotely scary or creepy or any of the things you expect from a good horror movie. Here’s hoping Craven is back to his old self for “Scream 4.”