Universal // 2010 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // February 4th, 2011
Only One Has The Power To Save Their Souls.
The "Riverton Seven" is the name given to the seven children born on the night of The Riverton Ripper's death. Having terrorized locals with a series of grisly murders, the Ripper was finally slain, but not before promising he'd come back. Now teenagers, the "Riverton Seven" find themselves unable to escape the circumstances surrounding the night they were born, and each year hold a ritual in which one of them must defeat a replica of the Ripper in order to keep his spirit from returning. This year it's Bug's (Max Thieriot) turn. Already having trepidations, Bug is spared from having to carry out the ritual when the local Police arrive.
But while making their way home, another of the "Seven," Jay (Jeremy Chu) is killed. The following day at school, a knife-wielding maniac kills another two of the seven. Suddenly the remaining members are faced with the prospect that the Ripper has returned for them.
Wes Craven's reputation was forged by a trio of horror classics: The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and A Nightmare on Elm Street; which marked him as a horror writer/director who was ahead of the curve. Though Craven has spawned other genre favorites, such as The People Under The Stairs and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, it's also true that his filmography is increasingly filling up with stinkers like Cursed and Vampire in Brooklyn; suggesting that the man who gave the world Freddy Krueger (famously based on the real life cases of Hmong refugees dying in their sleep) has gone a bit soft.
It is this latter view of Craven that is arguably the more prevailing opinion amongst modern moviegoers, and sadly My Soul To Take does nothing to change that.
The most disappointing aspect of My Soul To Take is undoubtedly the film's refusal to stray from well-worn genre tropes. It's sad to see someone who once set standards, and even wrote multiple chapters in the horror rulebook, resorting to what really amounts to self-cannibalization. Unlike Craven's superior works, My Soul To Take feels almost episodic, especially during the opening hour, with each poorly written character getting their own segment where they are hunted, and ultimately slaughtered by The Riverton Ripper. The film becomes more focused after the hour mark, but is so inept and lacking in ideas that it just plays out with no real purpose. Craven's ham fisted direction and uninspired screenplay undoes any hope he may have had of setting up an intriguing mystery regarding the killer's identity. Ironically, for something that is so drawn out, the climactic reveal is telegraphed amazingly early on.
Dialogue, much like the characters who regurgitate it, is woeful, and never allows the audience to forget they are watching a movie. Nothing about the film feels natural. Perhaps that sounds odd to suggest about a horror flick, especially one with a supernatural element, but without grounding the film with something, be it the characters or the world they inhabit, there's nothing for the audience to connect with. This leaves cheap jump scares -- something that My Soul To Take is full of -- as the only chance the filmmakers have to produce a fright.
I think it's fair to say that, in general terms, the horror genre isn't exactly renowned for the depth of its characters. Often we have a villain who steals the show, and a survivor girl-type who get all the writers attention, and that's it. But My Soul To Take lacks even these two archetypes. The Ripper, a half-assed cobbling together of numerous killers (think the voice of Jigsaw from Saw and an appearance reminiscent of the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers), lacks the charisma of Freddy Krueger or the menace of Michael Myers (Halloween). He just randomly appears, making no real impact. Similarly the vacuous teens in peril are merely a bunch of pretty faces (for the most part), which I challenge anyone to remember the names of by the time the end credits begin to roll.
Though the film deals out a reasonable quota of gore, kills are so uninventive that the flowing claret never excites the audience. Once scene sees the Ripper slaughter a young girl in a local wood. After gutting her (off screen, mind), we get an extended shot of her feet as blood spills onto them. The shot goes on and on, and is wholly unnecessary; giving further weight to the argument that Craven was having an off day.
The film's sole redeeming feature -- which still comes nowhere near to saving it -- is the concept of the Ripper's differing personalities inhabiting each of the seven babies born on the night of his death. Hardly an original concept, it still offers potential that is wasted once the prologue comes to an end.
The extras are headlined by a feature commentary from Wes Craven and assorted cast members. For all it's insights and reminiscing, the only thing I really wanted to hear -- but didn't -- was an apology for the near two-hours I committed to this film and will never get back. Following that we get both an alternative opening and ending, as well as a handful of deleted and extended scenes. Though released theatrically in 3D, the DVD is 2D only.
The film is presented with an excellent 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Blacks are rock solid, adding depth to the image and backing up the excellent color reproduction. The picture remains sharp throughout. The soundtrack too impresses, with good use of rear speakers and clear individual sounds.
Review content copyright © 2011 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternative Opening/Endings
* Deleted Scenes