REVIEW: Take My Soul! Please! Just Don't Make Me Watch My Soul to Take
For a movie that's being touted as Wes Craven's first 3-D feature, My Soul to Take ought to be a lot more fun than it is. The problem isn't just that Craven offers the usual smorgasbord of a bunch of kids being stalked by a guy wearing a disguise and carrying a knife: There's probably still lots of queasy-comfortable pleasure left in that formula, depending on how a director tackles it. (Lord knows Craven has gotten enough mileage out of the Scream franchise.)
But My Soul to Take is so flimsy and indistinct that it barely qualifies as a sketch. The movie opens with a back story, told in fragmented sequences that fit together (somewhat) like shards of broken glass: The otherwise placid town of Riverton has been terrorized by a serial killer, the Riverton Ripper, known for attacking his victims with a knife emblazoned, quite sensibly, with the word "vengeance" across the blade. On the night this multiple-personality koo-koo dies -- right after he's murdered his pregnant wife -- seven babies are born prematurely at the local hospital. What could this possibly mean? As it turns out, it means that the Riverton Ripper not only has multiple personalities but multiple souls, and these listless ghosties may have wriggled their way, like ambitious tadpoles, into the bodies of these innocent newborns.
Jump ahead 16 years, to a time when the kids in Riverton ritually observe the anniversary of the Riverton Ripper's death -- which also happens to be the birthday shared by seven of those townskids. Max Thieriot is the shy, bumbling one; John Magaro, his best friend, is the funny, gangly one. There's a bully jock (Nick Lashaway), an uppity blond hottie (Paulina Olszynsky) and a Jesusy redhead (Zena Grey). For diversity's sake, there's also the Asian one (Jeremy Chu) -- he's the first one offed -- and the blind, black one (Denzel Whitaker, not the son of Forest).
As these kids celebrate their shared birthday, strange things begin to happen. Why, it looks as if they're being stabbed or slashed to death, one by one! Is the Riverton Ripper still alive? Or could it be that he lives on in one of the town's birthday teens? Craven throws in all kinds of pale pink herrings (to call them red would be giving them too much credit) to throw us off the trail, including a bitchy girl-gang ringleader named Fang (Emily Meade), who may also be linked with the Riverton Ripper's legacy.
When the plot isn't completely confusing, it's totally stupid and boring, and My Soul to Take doesn't look particularly good, either. Some of the 3-D effects are pretty -- a bridge strung with misty white lights stretches out into an infinite nighttime; a forest contains some basically OK-looking 3-D trees -- but Craven doesn't come up with any particularly clever applications for this now not-so-new technology. The picture is directed with such a loose, slack hand that you'd think Craven had never directed a slasher-thriller before: I didn't jump once; I never even felt vaguely scared or creeped out. Craven is hardly a has-been -- his 2005 Red Eye is a succinct, gorgeously crafted little thriller -- but My Soul to Take just feels rushed and jumbled. It's got plenty of souls -- just not enough brains.