Amidst the hype surrounding the reappearance of the Scream franchise on cinema screens later this month comes the DVD release of teen horror My Soul To Take. Written and directed by Scream aficionado Wes Craven, the film ricochets between generic teen fare and hammed-up horror, delivering several well-placed scares along the way.
Creating folklore around the fallout of the antics of a crazed schizophrenic who terrorised the small town of Riverton 16 years before, My Soul To Keep focuses on the superstition that surrounds the seven children born prematurely on the night the killer died. Supposedly each gifted with a segment of his soul (hang on, are we talking about horcruxes here?), the children share a bond that they celebrate every birthday… locally known as ‘ripper day’, such a celebration allowing the folklore to be spoonfed to viewers to get them up to speed. The seven are loosely disguised fodder for the knife-wielding murderer that appears after their 16th birthday ritual is cut short by local law enforcement. Could the superstitions be true, is the riverton ripper back from the dead… ?
Craven fans will notice that several of his calling cards are echoed throughout; the unkillable masked killer and harassed cop are here whilst the landlines of yesteryear have been replaced with mobile phones. Although such set pieces form the basis of a nigh-flawless horror formula, they are, disappointingly, never really given a chance to shine in Craven’s less-than-coherent script. Formulaic red herrings abound whilst the twists and shocks are sometimes misplaced – it sometimes feels like Craven threw all the ingredients of a great horror at the page and hoped they’d work the niggles out themselves. That’s not to say that he hasn’t obviously kept up with recent developments in horror. The murderer sounds eerily like Saw’s Jigsaw whilst the rocking horse (a device whose importance is never exactly explained) is reminiscent of the same film’s eerie puppet.
My Soul To Take offers run-of-the-mill teen horror stuff but is enjoyable nonetheless. Questions inevitably arise from the gaping plot holes (including a raised eyebrow at just why the killer was allowed to enjoy a family life when his problems were apparently known by medical professionals) whilst everybody’s inclination to jump to ill-informed conclusions can get a little tiresome toward the end. Thankfully the film provides likeable, if rather stereotypical, leads. Bug (Max Thieriot) manages his part well; despite never quite knowing whether he himself is a proverbial goodie or baddie, he plays his part compellingly despite the existence of unnecessary memory problems confusing him as much as it does the audience. It is safe to say that the audience are never playing with a full deck and, although it is rare they ever do in cinema, here the predicament is a little uncomfortable. Why exactly does Bug have his schizo moments just to then seemingly play the hero? Your guess is as good as ours. Best friend Alex (John Magaro) provides the film with its sinister player whilst other members of the seven provide enthusiastic, if a tad recycled, subplots.
Despite left in the hands of the more than capable Craven, some cheesy deaths still surface. Brandon’s death is perhaps the most guilty of this crime, with his straight-to-camera apology to his unborn child smacking of pure ham. Whilst Scream provided audiences with tongue-in-cheek fundamental horror flick laws, My Soul To Take tells of the dangers of faking whilst reminding audiences ‘it’s not okay for everybody to be killing each other all the time’. Although not as catchy or as satirical as the laws drawn up in Scream, the guy’s got a point.
Hopefully Scream‘s reappearance this April will have a better reception than that of the Riverton ripper…
Watch this if you liked: Scream, Halloween.