My Soul To Take is a film of staggering incompetence. In terms of tone, plot, character, and even the most rudimentary of scares it is so stunningly inept that it beggars belief.
Of course this shouldn’t be too surprising given that it’s Wes Craven behind the camera. I don’t care for Craven as a filmmaker, there I said it. That statement alone demands some qualification and not just because of the fedora wearing elephant in the room.
What Craven has is an absolute genius for placing his finger on the pulse of what is bothers Americans. The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House On The Left, Nightmare On Elm Street and even to a certain extent Scream are all movies that don’t merely touch a nerve but jab it.
But as good as his instincts at figuring out what bothers people are is just how bad he is at virtually every other part of the filmmaking process. Though his flashes of brilliance obscure it, scene for scene, shot for shot Craven is a fairly dreadful filmmaker who follows a fairly dreadful set of instincts.
Instincts that told him that what a storry of a grisly double rape murder really needed was a subplot about a couple of wacky cops. Instincts that told him that Freddy would be scareier as an earthquake causing demigod who stole Chris Cornell’s pants. Instincts that told him that what the world really needed was a Hard R children’s film and which eventually turned The Scream Franchise into whatever the hell it turned into.
And hell we’re still on the films that are fairly well respected. We haven’t even gotten into some of the real pieces of shit he’s put his name to. Which brings us back around to My Soul To Take, a film that will sit proudly on the shelf next to the likes of Shocker, Vampire In Brooklyn and Cursed.
Things start off with a fairly routine if fairly incompetent prologue about a killer with split personalities and the worst psychiatrist in cinematic history. After working his way through approximately a half million people in five minutes (subjectively) and coming back from the grave more times then your average in continuity superhero, the killer finally expires (OR DOES HE!!!) and we cut ahead sixteen years (OR DO WE!!!) to witness the seven children born on the night of the killer’s demise (OR WERE THEY!!!) push a puppet of the killer into the river (OR D- OK I’ll stop now).
Unfortunately the cops come and stop the teens before they can finish the ritual. Unlucky Man! Because now “The Ripper” is free to wreck his generic havoc again and kill the seven children who were born at the same time as him! Because of Haiti! Or something! I wish I were making this up.
The film now crosses its inept and flaccid slasher movie with an inept and flaccid romantic comedy. Craven is a man who last set foot in a high school oh some fifty years ago and the dialogue and plotting is about as hip and jiggy as you would expect it to be. Much of the movie is concerned with scenes that wouldn’t make a B Plot on Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
But they come almost as a relief from all the tedious scare sequences in the horror movie. It’s difficult to convey how completely devoid of tension, scares, or surprise all of these sequences are. Without exception they consist of:
A) The protagonist in some isolated place.
B) The Ripper charging through the underbrush like Bigfoot bellowing “Fear Ye The Ripper” or something equally banal.
C) The Ripper stabbing them.
D) Cut away rinse or repeat.
So in summation My Soul To Take is boring, repetitive, far from scary, tonally confused and just kind of sad. A fair description both of the film and Wes Craven’s career as a whole at this point. It is however, just dire enough to be special. I’m not the type of person to recommend a film on a “so good it’s bad” basis. But if you are looking for something that will out and out appall you rather then just bore you, My Soul To Take will get the job done.