HOLLYWOOD—Horror master Wes Craven has terrified audiences for decades with his films “The Last House on the Left,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the “Scream” franchise. His latest venture, “My Soul to Take” is a clever flick, but it lacks that punch audiences have come to expect from the director. The plot of the film revolves around the Riverton Ripper, a schizophrenic serial killer, who suffers from multiple personalities. The serial killer returns to his hometown to stalk a group of teenagers who were born on the day he died.
Max Thieriot stars as Adam “Bug” Hellerman who suffers from vivid nightmares and hallucinations. He isn’t the boy next door; he’s a bit eccentric at times, and is a social outcast. Beyond worrying about the possibility of the Ripper returning from the grave, Bug is unaware that the Ripper was in fact his father. One by one the seven teens are slowly dispatched by the “Ripper”. We have the jock, the popular girl, the blind kid, the religious girl and Bug’s best friend Alex (John Magaro).
Alex and Bug are perhaps the most developed characters of all the teens; as an audience member you are invested in their lives and you care about their survival. With the other characters the viewer gets a slice of their lives, but not enough for them to care whether they live or die. The audience knows Alex is suffering physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather and that Bug isn’t that confident teen many wished they were in high school. There are also those classic elements of school cliques, mean girls and other shenanigans in the film.
What works well is the premise that the killer’s soul possibly reincarnated in one of the seven teens, making this an excellent guessing game. Craven carefully weaves that element of the story, which plays well on the screen. You will be guessing to the very last minute as to who is the killer. Craven is a master at creating a heightened level of suspense that hooks the viewer into suspecting everyone. Of course, at first glance, you want to peg Bug as the killer. His father was a psychopath and he’s having these strange delusions that no one else sees and it doesn’t help that he exhibits various personalities.
Thieriot wickedly portrays those mannerisms perfectly. Whether he’s projecting Penelope (Zena Gray), Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), Jay (Jeremy Chu) or Alex he makes you believe he is that person at the moment and it creates several funny moments in a dark film. “My Soul to Take” touches on an issue that hasn’t been tapped in the horror genre as much—people suffering from multiple personalities and not being aware of their behavior and their environment. The violence is graphic at times and it’s a pleasure to know that Craven didn’t see it necessary to show all the gory details. The 3-D element is a gimmick. I can’t recall anything coming at my face besides the opening sequences of the film; so if you’re a avid horror buff pass on the 3-D and see the film in 2-D.
The film has clever elements in it, but it doesn’t leave a sense of dread. The movie has an interesting premise, but doesn’t live it to its expectations. “My Soul to Take” isn’t filmmaker Wes Craven’s best work, but for all you Craven fans don’t worry “Scream 4” arrives in April 2011