Weak Return for Wes Craven
It’s been five years since Wes Craven released his last horror film. Emerging from this hiatus is the director’s first 3D film, My Soul to Take. Mr. Craven’s new movie was a weak and formulaic thriller filled with non-stop perplexing dialogue. The movie emerges as a mere gap filler for audiences, who patiently await the highly anticipated film, Scream 4. The careless release in digital 3D seemed like another ploy to drag audiences back to cinemas.
The town of Riverton, Massachusetts is being terrorized by a serial killer known as the Riverton Ripper. Police immediately find the killer and shoot him. En route to the hospital, the ambulance crashes and the Riverton Ripper dies near the banks of the local river, where his body is never found. Sixteen years later, the film reveals that seven children, the Riverton Seven, were born on the same day as the death of the Riverton Ripper. One of the seven teenagers is Bug. Bug, portrayed by Max Thieriot, is a shy boy that begins to experience intense headaches and see visions of dead classmates. Now, one by one, the killer is hunting down the children born on the day of his supposed death.
Thieriot evolves from his usual straight-edge roles to deliver a fine performance as Bug, the neurotic teenager. At first glance it is hard to tell whether Thieriot’s is genuinely depicting Bug as a naïve boy or forcing the façade of innocence upon the character. However, it is because of this superbly executed tension that the complexities and disarray of Bug’s personality develops throughout the narrative; whether it is Bug’s inability to stand-up to bullies, talk to girls, and his psychotic episodes.
The dialogue is written with certain directness; a directness that imbues certain explanations for the sake of Bug and the audience. Brandon (Nick Lashaway) one of the Riverton Seven explicitly explains the significance of the teenager’s birthdays with the death of the Riverton Ripper. It is such an insult when Craven believes his character and audience is unintelligent to solve the mystery. The thriller looses half of its mystery in this blatant explanatory dialogue diminishes the film and becomes a bland experience.
Though the film was a great disappointment and catastrophe, there were certain moments in the film that reminded us why Wes Craven is the brilliant horror maestro that he is. In the first scene, Abel Plankov (Raul Esparza) stands in front of the mirror talking to his reflection. Craven uses an over-the-shoulder shot to focus on Abel’s infinite reflections created in the bathroom mirror. Unlike the explicatory scenes in the film, the never-ending reflections implicitly refer to Abel’s multiple personalities. And therein lies Wes Craven’s twisted genius.
Another brilliantly planned sequence was when Bug’s love interest, Brittany, (Paulina Olysnski) is killed in the middle of the woods. Craven opts for an extreme close-up shot of Brittany’s eyes as she calls for help and says “take me home.” Craven moves in closer with a close-up shot of Brittany’s white purse and slippers, which turn red from her blood as she is being killed. The red shoes, closed eyes, and the words “take me home” clearly alludes to Dorothy’s ruby slippers and her wish to return home. What was once an image of safetly and innocence has turned into a blood lust of horror. Only Wes Craven would parody a pop culture reference and contort it to suit his horror world.
Though the film pushes Bug to leave his innocent boyhood in order to become a man, My Soul to Take never graduates to becoming a full-fledged thriller. It is stuck with its innocent thriller principles and is never allowed to break free from these constraints. The poor story structure and dialogue does not allow the audience to connect with the film or characters. It’s is an awkward killing spree without any purpose. Perhaps this film blunder was made to lower the standards for Craven’s up-coming film, Scream 4.