“My Soul to Take,” the first film horror-meister Wes Craven has both written and directed since 1994’s “New Nightmare” (and his first picture in 3-D), is a thrill-free snooze that will certainly rank as one of the least — if not the least — effective entries in Craven’s nearly 40-year canon of cinematic shockers.
The overly complex story goes something like this: Sixteen years ago in the town of Riverton, Abel Plenkov (Rául Esparza), a schizophrenic family man with seven personalities—one of which was that of a murderer — killed his pregnant wife and was then shot by local police, but not before the dying madman vowed to return one day to murder the seven local children all born that night. Nothing if not a monster of his word, Plenkov, or the Riverton Ripper as he’s known, seemingly reappears exactly 16 years later to make good on his deadly promise. With me so far?
As the suburban legend has it, each of the Ripper’s personalities may have found its way into each of the seven Riverton kids born that fateful night. So maybe Plenkov is still alive and murdering or maybe, if he actually is dead, it’s his darkest soul that’s doing his dirty work. And if so, which of the seven 16th-birthday celebrants is running around with a knife hacking up folks? The expression TMI (too much information) could’ve been hatched expressly for this movie.
The protracted first half of the film follows a day in the soapy high school lives of the Riverton Seven (they have a nickname too!), a group of attractive types including the hot jock (Nick Lashaway), the cool beauty (Paulina Olszynski), the religious chick (Zena Grey), the generic Asian (Jeremy Chu) and the noble blind boy ( Denzel Whitaker), who’s African American for good measure. Then there’s Bug (Max Thierot), a sweet-faced underdog plagued by nightmares on his own kinda Elm Street, and his best friend, Alex (John Magaro), a wisecracker with an abusive stepdad. (A vile 19-year-old Queen Bee and eternal senior lovingly named Fang, played by Emily Meade, also factors in.)
As these mystically connected kids start getting bloodily picked off by a baritone in an ugly-crazy-silly costume, Bug becomes the prime suspect — or maybe the group’s chief savior, that is, if (reread Paragraph 3 here if needed) Plenkov still lives. No one knows the answer to that one, least of all Bug, who, in the film’s equally lackluster second half, is stuck in his house to defend his family and others against that knife-wielding maniac in the nutty outfit.
Sadly, there’s not an ounce of tension or a single decent scare to be found amid any of this convoluted mayhem. And, while the performers do what they can with the creaky material, there are some dialogue humdingers (“It’s not OK for everyone to be killing each other all the time!”) not even the best actor could make fly.
As for the 3-D (the film was converted in post-production), it’s a thoroughly pointless garnish that never has any impact except to darken the screen (while wearing those clunky glasses) and command a higher ticket price. But truly, that’s the least of this dud’s myriad problems.