Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews My Soul to Take 3D
My Soul to Take 3D could be considered a “back to the drawing board” film for legendary horror director, Wes Craven, especially considering the project marks the first time Craven has both written and directed a film since 1994 with the Nightmare on Elm Street meta-film, New Nightmare.
While there are a number of Craven staples (as director or writer) in My Soul to Take – a coming of age tale, socially segmented teens, and a new iconic slayer-figure – the writer/director’s most recent project fails to stitch these components together with anything but surface-level filler.
“In the sleepy town of Riverton, Massachusetts, legend tells of the Riverton Ripper, a serial killer with multiple personalities who swore he would return to murder the seven children born the very night he died. On the sixteenth birthday of the Riverton Seven, an unknown assailant begins to murder them, one by one.”
The cast is led by Hollywood up-and-comers Max Thieriot, as the naïve and possibly schizophrenic Bug, and Emily Meade as mean-girl queen, Fang. While they’re certainly not the deepest characters to ever grace the silver screen, Bug and Fang, largely a result of Thieriot and Meade’s performances, make it painfully obvious that practically every other character in My Soul to Take is a caricature.
The supporting characters in the film represent what could be Craven’s most one-dimensional cast to date. The problem isn’t the actors’ performances, it’s the fundamental tie that binds their characters (well, and some dialogue) – instead of a rag-tag group of outsiders that must stand up in the face of uncertainty or a contrasting group from different steps on the social ladder that must work together to destroy an ancient evil, the characters of My Soul to Take are brought together because… they were born in the same small town, on the same day.
While this works well to keep the audience guessing as to which, if any, of the Riverton Seven houses the soul of the reincarnated Riverton Ripper, the narrative approach disrupts any real chance at seeing these characters interact – especially in a way that pays off, considering the amount of melodrama in the first half of the film.
Allow me to break it down:
Following a dramatic opening set-piece, the film jumps sixteen years into the future – centering around naïve and slow-witted Bug, as he navigates a familiar institution of teen torture – high school. A number of complicated, albeit forced, relationships are established (though not a single one pays-off): Penelope (Zena Grey) is the morally superior member of the school, quoting scripture and looking out (as well as pining) for Bug. She counsels Melanie, the school principal’s daughter, who was knocked up by Brandon (Nick Lashaway), a sex-crazed high school jock. Brandon is actually interested in Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), a blonde haired fashionista who has a secret crush on Bug – but is forbidden to act on her feelings by mean girl, Fang. Fang essentially runs the school ordering literal “hits,” through Brandon, on Bug and his best friend, Alex (John Magaro), as well as others – to maintain order. There’s also Jerome (Denzel Whitaker), a blind/nice guy responsible for stepping-in and defusing at least two tense confrontations in the film.
Despite the numerous character-connections, enough to make an episode of Gossip Girl look coherent, not a single one of them pays off in a satisfying way. Even the most basic girl likes boy, boy likes girl relationship established early on goes entirely unresolved.
Considering the amount of interwoven character arcs Craven is employing, it’s hard not to draw parallels between My Soul to Take and the original Scream installment; however, where Scream basks in self-referential charm, Craven appears to be taking My Soul to Take extremely seriously. It’s as if Craven tried to make a character-driven slasher film but, halfway through, got bored with the majority of his characters and just started killing them off – in quick succession. Instead, we’re left with a film that places too much time and emphasis in the hands of disposable characters – so that it is neither a brainless slasher flick nor an immersive character piece based in a serial massacre.
That said, moviegoers heading to theaters for a bit of Halloween spirit, via a formulaic who-dunnit slasher-thriller, probably won’t be entirely disappointed by My Soul to Take. There are a few good scares in the movie, in spite of all the melodrama. Still, the film’s most unique (and tense) moments occur in the first fifteen minutes – and it’s mostly a slow burn from that point on. The actual climax of the movie falls into the normal horror film tropes (hide in closet, run up staircase, etc) – never managing to fully capitalize on the excitement (or horror for that matter) of the strong opening set-piece.
Another aspect of My Soul to Take that doesn’t quite live up to its promise is the post-conversion 3D. While the conversion itself, is nice-looking (unlike the often referenced echo effects in the heinous Clash of the Titans conversion), the effect itself is practically non-existent – offering up one of the most tacked on 3D price-hikes we’ve seen to date.
Avatar wowed us by manipulating depth of field with subtle mastery, Resident Evil: Afterlife went the other way, with over the top, in your face 3D effects. My Soul to Take falls somewhere in the middle – like watching a 2D film with 3D visuals. The film was never intended to arrive as a 3D feature – and it’s obvious. While the effect will never distract you with knives, blood, or body parts flying out of the screen, there were only two or three shots where 3D made the film more immersive (for example, one moment lasts no more than five seconds as the audience peers through the slats in a closet door). However, these brief moments are forgettable – and definitely not worth the extra cost or annoyance of 3D glasses.
Craven developed My Soul to Take as a stand-alone project, not as a franchise; however, it’s hard to imagine we won’t ever see My Soul 2 Take. Should a sequel get the green light, the best we could probably hope for is a prequel, one that provides the kind of complexity, and intensity, the audience is promised in the first scene of the film. Considering the downhill slide that the last hour and 15 minutes showcase, it’s clear the execution in My Soul to Take was not on par with the strength of the initial Riverton Ripper concept – and it’s a shame.
My Soul to Take is currently playing in 3D and 2D in theaters.