Tuesday, 12 April 2011



Who are the horror greats, the post-60s icons of the genre that are still working? You have to say Romero, Argento, Carpenter, Hooper, possibly Cronenberg (though he does proper grown-up drama rather genre films any more), possibly Landis (though he's more a comedy man), possibly Raimi (though he loses points for making bloated superhero films). And you have to include Wes Craven, for at least two copper-bottomed classics (Scream, A Nightmare On Elm Street) as well as other genuinely intriguing and surprising films like The Serpent And The Rainbow and New Nightmare, and simple but thoroughly effective B-movie thrillers like Red Eye - not to mention a video nasty (The Last House On The Left) which many admire although I personally can't abide it. But for every up, there's a down and for some reason every terrific, innovative and exciting film seems to be followed by an absolute abyss of silliness. After Deadly Blessing comes Swamp Thing. After Elm Street comes The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. After Serpent And The Rainbow comes Shocker. After the Scream movies, we get Cursed.

And after Red Eye we get My Soul To Take, which is not just staggeringly stupid by Craven's own, frankly variable, standards but by anyone's standards. Sixteen years ago in the small town of Riverton, the local homicidal maniac (bearing the unimaginative nickname of The Riverton Ripper) is finally shot repeatedly by police before eventually dying in an exploding ambulance - but guess what: the body was never found!!! And now, it looks as though the Ripper might have been alive all this time and is now returning to kill once more. Or, is it possible that the maniac's seven multiple personalities each inhabited the soul of one of the seven babies born on the night he died, and his own murderous personality is possessing one of them to kill the others?

This is the preposterous thesis of the film, padded out with tiresome domestic drama about kids and parents, shock backstory revelations (there's a huge lump of drug-dealing subplot in the deleted scenes) and a lot of bizarre allegorical nonsense about condors. If all the blithering teen soap opera about the hot girl going out with the bully but the nerdy hero fancies her but his sister is spoiling things and the religious girl likes him and the bully has knocked up the principal's daughter and blah blah whatever.... had been cut out it would be [1] about 40 minutes long, [2] possible to perhaps give a hoot about any of them, and [3] much better.

As it is, it's far too long and you don't care who, if anyone, is possessed by the spirit of the homicidal maniac: two characters in particular you're wishing bloody fiery dismemberment upon from pretty much their first appearances. The dialogue is atrocious, the story doesn't make sense and the killer's identity is absurd - "it was him?!?!". Why are they even supposed to be sixteen-year-olds anyway, given that the average age of the cast members for those roles is about 22? And it ends, just like the Screams and Red Eye, with the masked maniac chasing the survivor around a house the size of Blenheim Palace with a big shiny knife.

Interestingly it was originally released as a 3D conversion job in the States but happily it's gone direct to video and flat in the UK - there's nothing in the film to indicate it would have benefitted from 3D in the slightest anyway. Far more annoying is the fact that the film is blatantly in the wrong ratio on the UK DVD and BluRay: a 16:9 presentation when the disc's extra features (which incidentally include an even dumber alternative opening and ending than they used in the film) are in 2.35 scope? This isn't to suggest that the film's problems would have been solved or at least diminished by showing the film in the correct ratio - the problems are with the script and the original idea - but they lose a star for releasing it in the wrong one.

Well, they would lose a star if they'd got one to lose. This is easily the worst film Craven's made so far: worse than Shocker (at which the audience openly laughed in derision when I saw it in Milton Keynes), less coherent than the much-reshot Cursed and sillier even than Deadly Friend, the zombie cheerleader robot movie in which there was at least the gore highlight of an old woman having her head knocked off by a basketball. Here's hoping that the imminent Scream 4 is an encouraging up rather than an abject down.


See it and wince:

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