“My Soul to Take” is Wes Craven’s Greatest Hits. Like a best-of album, it has a mellow, nostalgic charm, but fails miserably at originality and cohesion.
Sixteen years ago, The Riverton Ripper, a standard-issue movie serial killer, was shot and stabbed multiple times, but still managed to escape the ambulance en route to the hospital. His intention that night was to kill his pregnant wife and their 4-year-old daughter. Wife, check. But the daughter fled his madness, and the baby was born from the dead mother at midnight. Ah, six other babies were born at the same time.
Now these kids are 16 and have the idea that The Ripper will either emerge from the river and kill them all, or that he was possibly reincarnated in one of them, or maybe he will be able to reconstitute himself by killing them and collecting the one-seventh of his soul that exists in each of them. Or maybe it’s just a WTF plot from the get-go.
Bug (Max Thieriot, “Chloe”) is at the center of it all because he’s been plagued by nightmares all his life. Finding out that he is the son of The Ripper comes as a huge shock to him. For us, not so much. Of course, the kids, collectively known as The Riverton Seven, are killed one by one until only two remain. Has one of the two become The Ripper or is the original Ripper still alive?
The kids are the usual variety pack of soon-to-be-dead teenagers. Penelope (Zena Grey, “The Shaggy Dog”) is the one with the prayer group; Brandon (Nick Lashaway, “The Last Song”) is the bully; Jerome (Denzel Whitaker, TV’s “Brothers & Sisters”) is the blind, least-likely killer; Brittany (Paulina Olszynski) is the vain hottie; Alex (John Magaro, “The Box”) is the eccentric best pal.
The others get killed so early on, they make no impression. Also featured prominently are Fang (Emily Meade, TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), the catty leader of the girls, and May (Jessica Hecht, “Whatever Works”), Bug’s substitute mother.
This is Craven’s first full-length directorial jaunt since “Red Eye” five years ago, and the first time he’s directed one of his own scripts since “New Nightmare” in 1994. Recently, he’s kept bread on the table by selling off his old films (“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Last House on the Left,” “The Hills Have Eyes”) to the remake ghouls.
“My Soul to Take” is packed with themes and images from his earlier work, but it doesn’t come across as auteurism as much as it does laziness. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is an old screenplay that finally worked its way to the front of the drawer. The 3-D adds nothing.
You probably haven’t seen “My Soul to Take.” Good. Keep not seeing it. “Doug Bentin