How Wes Craven got his groove back...
I started out being a big Wes Craven fan. The Last House on the Left caught my attention and I really enjoyed the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. But then his films started becoming a hit-or-miss game for me, at least up until Scream came along and blew everything right out of the water. The Scream series kept me interested because it was fun, and not in a I-have-to-shoot-this-in-a-hurry-and-toss-in-some-kinda-funny-lines kind of way.
Then the inevitable happened... Just as Freddy Kruger started losing his edge and becoming a stand-up comedian with anger issues*, the Scream team started getting a little too wrapped up in the follow-the-movie-rules outline by the third film**.
Then 'ole Wes seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth while brutal remakes were being done on his earlier films.
When I heard that he was finally coming out with a new film and speculation was that it would be the “next Freddy”, I was a bit worried. I understand wanting to keep the gravy train coming, especially after seeing some pretty bad remakes that butchered the franchise for the next generation of horror fans, but Big Money tends to like to bet on proven horses nursed on standard formulas. I was expecting Freddy Kruger with a makeover.
I am now ready to admit that I was wrong to think like that, and my sincerest apologies to Mr. Craven.
My Soul to Take was, quite simply, a fun movie. It fits snugly into the teen slasher genre with a creepy story and a nice take on the classic genre character stereotypes. But most impressive to me was that you could tell he was having fun with it, and that's what made it so entertaining.
The story itself is pretty simple. A man with multiple personality disorder has a little problem with one of his other selves being a raging homicidal maniac that people called 'The Ripper”. After killing his pregnant wife but failing to murder his unborn son, he's shot up by the police and put into an ambulance to be treated for his wounds. The ambulance never makes it to the hospital after taking a detour into a river and The Ripper's body is never found. That same night, six other infants are also born prematurely.
Sixteen years later, the mystery of the disappearing maniac has become legendary and the seven kids born on the night he may or may not have died have made a fun ritual of symbolically “killing” The Ripper on their collective birthday in order to prevent him from rising back up from the river. However, this time the police disrupt their little curfew-breaking party before they can complete their ritual, and you just know that something terrible is just waiting to happen.
The kids themselves are not completely believable characters, or at least I can only hope that things haven't gotten so bad since the time I was a teen. But that doesn't mean that they are not fun to watch, and that's what is important. The central story focuses on Bug (Max Thieriot), who is The Ripper's son, and his best friend Alex (John Magaro), who is a bit of a rebel. At first I was afraid it was going to be a good kid/bad kid buddy film, but soon we learn that both boys can be quite creative with their mischief.
I understand that the film didn't do quite so well during its theatrical release, and I think that might have something to do with The Ripper himself. Unlike Ghostface or Freddy, The Ripper does not have that kind of charisma to keep us very interested in him. It's more fun watching the kids torture each other than it is when he shows up. However, the suspense does keep up a good pace and the story doesn't flounder to try to stretch out screen time. The Ripper, while not a memorable character, does tend to pop up just enough to make it a scary ride.
So while I enjoyed the film, I can see where others may not find it as entertaining. But I think that fans of the 1980s slasher genre may find it worth a peek.
* Yes, I realise that Mr. Craven only directed two of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, but the character of Freddy was his creation that ran amuck with the franchise. He suffered the same fate as Clive Barker's Hellraiser characters in being forever associated with anything that spurts out of the vein.
** I have not seen the fourth Scream movie yet.
Film information: My Soul to Take