An undisputed master of horror returns to the world of teen slashers with My Soul to Take, a dumbfounding thriller that'll truly leave its audience scratching their heads. Channeling Scream in some moments, with sprinkles of Nightmare on Elm Street in others, then ending in a "what the heck?" third act, filmmaker Wes Craven desperately looks to reconnect with the best of his work, but ends up delivering another clunker in the same vein as the much-maligned Cursed. While not all of My Soul to Take is rotten -- the first two acts are fairly zippy in dialogue, rife with unexpected plot elements and silly killer schtick -- one senses an eventual derailment, as Craven complicates the characters with psychic connections and multiple personalities that just aren't explained in a satisfying way. What's left is a limp wrap-up to a film that tries to do something out of the norm, but ends up proving that sometimes the road less walked just isn't worth the trek if your story is this half-cocked.
The action surrounds a sleepy town living in the shadow of a tragic killing spree by a man who was driven by the voices in his head to kill his wife, his doctor, and a slew of emergency workers. Though his body was never found, the townspeople were given a reminder of the brutal slayings in the form of seven babies who were all born that fateful night. Flash-forward 16 years to the day, when those seven children, now teens on separate ends of the social spectrum, strive to live down the folktale of the "Riverton Ripper" and how his soul lives on in each of their bodies (who came up with this zinger is anyone's guess). The film's impish hero is Bug (Max Thieriot), an alterna-nerd whose crush on social butterfly Brittany (Paulina Olszynski) leads him down the path of not just discovering the ins and outs of an underground high school crime ring (best not to ask), but the truth behind his hazy family history and the far-out psychic connections he's experiencing with the rest of the seven. When, one by one, the members of the pack end up dead, Bug is forced to wonder whether he's been the actual killer all along.
If the eventual plot-heavy finale didn't sink the movie, the fairly lifeless production would have. For a horror film, the picture is fairly devoid of thrills. There are chases through suburban settings and surreal dreamlike sequences (both Craven staples), yet My Soul to Take will hardly jolt any popcorn into the air, other than at the screen. The killer is a little too much like Rob Zombie's Michael Myers -- and his mumblings while chasing his prey ("The Riiiipppperrr!") are just plain goofy. The best moments are saved for the teen dialogue, which knowingly or not, provides giggle-worthy silliness. Once the seven are done off with, the film loses steam in order to explain away the unreasonable. Sure, it's a movie -- and some viewers might even give it a pass for being "smart" -- but Craven is better than this. It's as if he hijacked his own film in order to present interesting theories on the soul of a killer, when previously he always knew to keep the momentum going while nailing home a point. Some reshoots were reported on the once-shelved film, which might explain why the pulse of this sucker flatlines when it should sizzle.