Monday, October 13, 2014

Order On the Set

I recall hearing quite the glut of negativity aimed at Wes Craven's 2010 3D slasher My Soul To Take. The film seemed to rile up such bitter venom in all who viewed that I naturally have spent the last four years anxiously awaiting its arrival on Netflix Instant.

Try as I may, I just couldn't bring myself to wasting my valuable 1-disc-at-a-time plan on a movie that by all accounts was going to be unworthy. Most mediocre slashers are guaranteed a ticket on the Instant Watch circuit, but this one just refused to take the ride. 

Full disclosure: I finally watched My Soul To Take when it aired on the SyFy Channel (in MY day, by the way, we called it The Sci-Fi Channel; in my younger days, it was better known as The Home of Every Quantum Leap Rerun). What this means is that for all I know, scenes were edited or removed to fit into the 2-hour-with-commercials-not-for-Quantum-Leap running time. I'll never know what My Soul To Take looked like to the non-cable eyes, but I will assume it had less awkward mutings on curses and more importantly, 100% less blurred out newborn nudity.

I'm really not kidding: SyFy blurs out baby nudity. Somehow I find this incredibly disturbing. It makes something so natural and non-sexual (because: baby) into something that's apparently sexual or at the very least, harder core than Rated M. 

Anyway, I guess I find the politics of editing infant nudity way more intriguing than Wes Craven's bizarrely lazy tale of teenage stereotypes trapped in a convoluted yet unexplained curse of sorts. Still, I have a non-paying job to do, so let's get on with it!

Quick Plot: 16 years ago, the town of Riverton housed a vicious serial killer played by Raul Esparza--

This is going to be a REALLY hard review to get through, isn't it...

Sidebar, your honor: Raul Esparza is probably best known to the general American audience as the current ADA on Law & Order: SVU  (though Broadway audiences are more familiar with his musical work in everything from Cabaret to Company and so on). The man is, let me say this, 5'3.


I'm just, you know, pointing out that the sadistic and active murderer of this film is not too much taller than me.

Moving on, Esparza is a family man who opens the film building a white dollhouse in his basement--


Yes, the dollhouse bears a more than coincidental resemblance to something you might pass on Elm Street. And yes, this will not be the only sidebar to point out a similarity between My Soul To Take and that OTHER franchise.

So. Esparza's a family man with a wife about to deliver a baby whose nudity will be blurred out. He's also the host to multiple personalities--or souls, as the film occasionally discusses--that kill. According to the film's science, this makes him a violent schizophrenic--


Are we still, a full decade into the 21st century, calling multiple personality disorder the same as schizophrenia? Have we NOT gotten past this misconception? Isn't this to psychiatry what a misuse of its/it's is to grammar nerds? Isn't Wes Craven a pretty well-educated man who at least could have double checked this on Wikipedia?

Anyway, the Riverton Ripper or Reaper or whatever you want to call him is caught by, as usual in a Wes Craven film, completely unqualified police officers who somehow let him shoot/stab several last minute victims AFTER being captured. It's sort of resolved by an ambulance accident that, 16 years later, one can still see because in 16 years, why would a town ever do something as minor as remove the burnt vehicle of a fatal car accident from the street?

Did I mention it's now 16 years later? You're forgiven if you didn't catch that detail since all of the characters shown 16 years earlier haven't aged a day. This includes supporting unqualified policewoman Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead) who hasn't even changed her hair style in 16 years. 

Gurira's character in 1994
...and 2010

You know what HAS changed in 16 years? The baby, he of the blurred out baby nudity, is now a creepy high school student named Bug played by The House At the End of the Street's Max Thieriot. What's more interesting is that on that fateful night, there were six other babies born who might have required blurred out nudity in a deleted scene. Today, these teenagers are known as the Riverton Seven and take part in an annual performance before their peers and that burned out but still unmoved ambulance, wherein they ceremoniously slay the puppet embodiment of Raul Esparza to ward off his spirit--I mean schizophrenia--I mean, souls.  

Among the Riverton Seven are:

The token jock jerk
The token Asian artist kid
The token blond brat
The token religious girl
The token weird kid (nickname: Bug; hobby: birdwatching)
The token weird kid's friend with an abusive father 
The token blind black kid, who in the most disappointing SPOILER twist of all, is not the killer

When the awkward Bug fails to complete the Riverton party charade, the kids quickly begin to die in horrifically boring ways. Meanwhile, Bug begins to display some of his friends' personality quirks, such as being able to construct an elaborate condor costume for show and tell (because that's what high school biology apparently is in 2010) or capturing his pal Adam's movements in one of those mirror games you play in Acting 101 class. Mind you, it's not exactly clear or interesting in any way, and all of it makes me long for a much-needed rewatch of Nightmare On Elm Street 4.


I love that one. I know most horror fans see Renny Harlin's goofy take as the series' beginning of the end, but I find the visual creativity and super elaborate death sequences to be the best in the bunch. It references Kafka! Plus, it's the installment that resurrects Freddy Krueger via dog pee. 

What was I talking about again?

Right. So. Stereotypes die. Wes Craven displays a strange understanding of high school politics, envisioning a society where a bitchy super senior who goes by the name of Fang serves as a sort of fascist dictator who can enact edicts about levels of bullying and matchmaking. Maybe I just didn't "wake up and smell the Starbucks" (actual line of dialog) but I think modern teenagers aren't quite as Napoleonic as Wes Craven seems to believe.

There is so very much wrong with My Soul To Take. Aforementioned 'what the hell kind of teenagers ARE these people?' being just a teeny tiny part of it all. It's clear that this film was repackaged five times or so for test audiences, as minor plot threads seem to be introduced only to dangle lazily until you accept that you shouldn't care about them. The nature of why a schizoph--er, multiple personality carrying musical theater star could have such magical Shocker-ish abilities to inhabit and pass on multiple souls is never justified with any kind of mythology. One cop (who uses great anti-aging cream) suggests something about soul jumping. The kids sort of discuss it. Apparently, it happened in the movie and the script forgot to mention it.


I’ve now written over one thousand words about My Soul To Take. I think nine out of ten soul holders would agree that that’s at least 900 too many. And yet, I’m not done. So let me leave you with a few more bullet points worth noting. We’ll call them evidence:

Exhibit A: The Riverton Ripper uses a knife that has the word “vengeance” carved in the blade. This is an exhibit because never in the film does any real sense that the Riverton Ripper sought vengeance come into play. Other than, perhaps, the fact that the motive for Freddy Krueger hunting the children of his killers was vengeance. 

Exhibit B: I started keeping track of how many times a character turns around as the music CRESCENDOS and he/she is about to scream before realizing “oh hey! It’s just a friend.” I gave up after three.

Exhibit C: The very first shot of the killer--not musical theater multi-soul holder killer, mythical soul sharing 2010 killer--sprinting at his first victim was almost cool. 

Exhibit D: Maybe I’m reaching, but once the Nightmare On Elm Street winks started coming, I couldn’t stop seeing them. Everywhere. Bug’s best friend visits him by climbing in through his window. Maybe it’s nothing. Or maybe it’s a rather meh director trademark.

Exhibit E: It’s been at least a few hundred words since I mentioned it, and this has less to do with My Soul To Take than it does with The SyFy Channel or FCC, but seriously: the innocent biological genitalia of a BABY was blurred out, yet underage children being gutted, decapitated, and gutted again (the kills were incredibly not creative) was considered perfectly fine to show in full glory on television. Just something to consider, America.

Exhibit F: The end credits roll over an animated sequence of sorts involving condors. It’s sort of adorable. Until you remember that this is the credits sequence for a horror film that has, up to now, taken itself rather seriously

The prosecution rests.

High Points
Well, it's hard to hate a movie that includes a dramatic scene wherein the lead character gives an interactive book report on a condor while his friend is dressed as said condor and said friend dressed as condor vomits and poops on the film's minor villain

Low Points
Aside from this not being a very good movie, the mere premise of a whole bunch of kids being born on the same night can't NOT make me think of Bloody Birthday, and how much greater a viewing experience that film is (not just compared to My Soul To Take, but really, compared to 99% of cinema in existence. Have you SEEN Bloody Birthday???)

Lessons Learned
A good show 'n tell needs shock and awe (artificial bird poop and vomit helps as well)

It's not okay for everybody to be killing each other all the time

Epinephrin kicks ass

Computer imagery enhancement was at its peak in 1994

Hey. Relax. If things get too tough, just turn on the prayer condition

Yup. My Soul To Take is bad. It also earned over 1700 words from me, so it might be bad--


It is bad. No might about it.

Yet it somehow led me to write quite a bit. So whatever that says about the movie, that’s that.


  1. Yeah, I have never had any interest in this one. At all. Bloody Birthday, on the other hand, is a masterpiece.

  2. You know, now all I want to do is go home and watch Bloody Birthday. It really is that good.

  3. I'm in the minority here but I actually enjoyed this one. It's definitely not as bad as anybody makes it out to be (at least to me) but it IS obvious that there was a lot of producer/studio tinkering going on.
    I'd really like to see Craven's original version/vision of the movie.

  4. It's far from the worst horror film to hit movie theater screens, certainly. And the original script HAD to be significantly different, based on how much seems to not quite fit together. I didn't find it truly awful, but as I wrote about it, I couldn't seem to stop finding things that were so ridiculous!

  5. Raul Esparza is also really great on Hannibal.

    1. I still haven't watched Hannibal. Heard great things though!