Wes Craven fans should pray that the upcoming Scream 4 is a return to form for the director after the dismal My Soul To Take. Released theatrically in late 2010, the film was Craven’s first directorial outing since 2005’s Red Eye. Five years later, and on the eve of a return to his second most famous franchise, My Soul To Take failed on all levels. The storytelling is muddled, hampered by a weak concept. A cast of unknowns comes across as bland at best, downright irritating at worst. The film’s gross didn’t even match its modest $25 million budget, despite an attempt at boosting interest with a 3-D conversion. Now the film is available on Blu-ray (only in 2-D, as it was shot) and should be labeled “For Wes Craven Junkies Only.”
Maybe part of the problem is that My Soul To Take is that Craven was out of practice as a writer. This was his first effort as writer/director since way back in 1994 with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The plotting is so confusing, not to mention crushingly boring, that it feels like a first draft by a first-time screenwriter. Basically a killer known as “The Ripper” is haunting the town of Riverton in which he was killed. There were seven children born on the same day he died. Those are the kids he is after, for some revenge-based reason. Every anniversary of his death, the town’s children – now teenagers – commemorate the event as “Ripper Night.” There’s even a life-sized marionette that comes trampling through the woods to scare them (I couldn’t figure out who was operating the puppet). The Ripper calls these kids on the phone, sounding exactly like the voice that terrorized kids in Scream, informing them of their impending death.
One of the teens may or may not be the Ripper’s son. And that teen may or may not be inhabited by the spirit of the Ripper. Craven tries pathetically to establish some suspense about which of these teens has the Ripper’s soul inside them. It’s the kind of nonsense that begins to fade from memory even as the movie plays out. The Ripper might be the least scary horror villain to ever disgrace the silver screen. He looks kind of like John Travolta from Battlefield Earth, but is far less threatening. There is a condor costume worn by a student named Alex (John Magaro) that is much more effective. I feel kind of sorry for the young actors playing the Riverton Seven. It must have been exciting to be cast in a Wes Craven horror film, hoping it might be the beginning of a new franchise. Only Max Thierot, as the troubled Bug, makes much of an impression.
My Soul To Take looks as good as it should on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition. In other words, being a relatively low budget, studio-produced horror movie in 2010 there shouldn’t be anything technically wrong with its presentation. The film, framed at 2.35:1, takes place mostly at night. Despite occasional black crush that robs some darker scenes of detail, the action registers well even low-lighting situations. The film is not colorful, with a very cool color scheme of dark grays, blues, and earth tones. But what color there is seems realistic, with the actor’s faces intentionally pallid and pasty. There is nothing to carp about with this transfer, which is one of the few positive aspects of this release.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is the other strong aspect. Much like the visual presentation, for a new movie the audio lives up to modern expectations without being especially noteworthy. Invariably the highlights are the scenes where the Ripper is stalking his prey. It’s exactly what you’d expect, the LFE channel rumbles while the rear channels have sound effects ping-ponging back and forth. Those flurries of activity are well done and go some ways towards goosing the viewer. Otherwise the overall audio level is quiet, with often hushed dialogue. The dialogue remains intelligible even at lower levels.
There is a handful of supplements featured on My Soul To Take. Wes Craven is joined by a trio of cast members for a commentary track. A selection of deleted scenes extends the punishment doled out by the movie itself. The bizarre alternate endings add to the sense that Craven was asleep at the wheel during the making of this complete mess. I would only recommend this film to someone I harbored an intense hatred toward.