My Soul to Take is an utterly bewildering film to experience. And the fact that horror maestro Wes Craven both wrote and directed this hogwash makes it even more head-scratching. Craven must have been pulling some type of elaborate hoax by making this seriously awful film – he’s so far above the material that he mustbe joking, or at least committing an act of cinematic trolling. The premise – a half-hearted mixture of Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street – is ridiculously abstract, and was brought to life with stilted dialogue and awful screenwriting. It’s a bit of a difficult task to tell you exactly why the script is so bad, because recognising the flaws requires one to actually understand everything that’s happening in the story. Frankly, I can’t make heads or tails of it – and I doubt that any of the actors or even Craven himself would be able to explain it.
As the film opens, a notorious serial killer known as the Riverton Ripper is killed by police, revealing a supernatural presence which continues to live on despite an ostensibly deceased physical body. And on the night of the Ripper’s supposed death, seven babies were simultaneously born at the local hospital. The story then fast-forwards to the 16th anniversary of the events; the Ripper’s body is still undiscovered, and the seven kids born on the night – known as the Riverton Seven – are well aware of the bizarre events surrounding their births. The anniversary is an evening of tradition for the Riverton Seven, who gather each year to commemorate the end of the Ripper’s deadly reign. However, it appears that the Ripper has returned this year, and that his malevolent soul may be living on inside one of the Riverton Seven.
Despite its clichéd nature, My Soul to Take‘s opening sequence is passable, instilling at least a vague sense that a decent film may be taking shape. But from that point on, the flick takes a huge nose-dive, spiralling out of control to such an extent that it’s hard to figure out what the fuck is happening, let alone why. None of the characters make any sense or seem in any way real, scenes drag on and on to the point of tedium, and the dialogue (which sounds like Craven was trying to imitate Kevin Williamson) is horrible. Furthermore, My Soul to Take is in no way thrilling, funny or even engaging due to unbelievably bad storytelling. It doesn’t help that the story itself is a complete mess. The tone, meanwhile, is all over the map, with what appears to be ineffective humour popping up amidst ineffective horror. The result is 100 minutes of awkward, disjointed, agonising monotony that’s not worth sitting through even as a dare.
The only thing close to terrifying about My Soul to Take is that it was Wes Craven’s return to the horror scene after a 5-year hiatus. How can the director of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street beget such a talentless addition to the same genre that he helped to build? In fact there’s not a single scare or creative kill in My Soul to Take at all – the kills are Syfy Channel lame, while some kills even happen off screen. Making matters worse is the obvious use of CGI blood, which looks monumentally awful and lessens the visceral impact of the murders. Adding insult to injury, Craven seems to channel his own Scream for no reason at all, with the killer calling the teenagers on their cell phones to taunt them just prior to murdering them (apparently the voice of Scream‘s Ghostface, Roger Jackson, also voiced the killer here). In context, the phone taunting make no sense – did Craven just include this malarkey in an attempt to be funny and self-referential? If so, he failed. And if he did it because he genuinely thought it would be thrilling? Fail on omega levels.
After an interminable series of thrill-less murders, stiff dialogue and painful scenes of so-called acting, the proceedings come to a head for the exhaustively stupid climax that’s prolonged to agony. It’s hard to figure out exactly what the fuck Craven was aiming for with the climax – it’s completely devoid of tension, and thus merely amounts to a few bad actors spurting bad lines of dialogue. Speaking of the actors, they are all terrible – not only do they look too old to be high school kids, but their acting is so forced that it feels like we’re watching a low-rent high school play. Zena Grey is a notable offender. Sure, Grey is pleasant to look at, but her religious zealot act is cringe-worthy due to its over-the-top awfulness.
Wes Craven must share the Riverton Ripper’s condition of having multiple souls rattling around inside his physical form. The real Craven is a master of horror, but the alternative soul inside of Craven begets nonsense like My Soul to Take. It’s impossible to overstate just how abysmal this film is – scenes are haphazardly assembled without any sense of pacing, and all of the talk of souls and soul guardians (i.e. the stuff supporting the central premise) merely leads to a lot of “What the fuck?” moments. Absolutely nothing works here. If this was a student film, My Soul to Take would be unwatchable. But with Craven having written and directed it, the film is a crime against cinema.