What in the world happened to Wes Craven? Growing up, I couldn’t help but be a big fan of the man’s work. Hell, even Deadly Friend and Shocker were hits in my room! But, looking back, since when did he ever make a film that evoked fear & feelings of tension and didn’t have Nightmare or Scream in the title? Since then, everything he has done (with the possible exception of certain scenes in The Serpent and the Rainbow) has felt like a parody of everything he has done that made him great. Is he really still trying to show those old bosses at New Line Cinema that he can make a good horror film? While he works on things like Vampire in Brooklyn and Shocker, I really wonder if he thinks these are going to come off well. Because, My Soul To Take (which was written by Craven himself, the first time he has done so since 1994’s New Nightmare) is a flat out turkey that once again proves all he is doing is making a parody of himself. And, as someone who has actually met the man (he signed a copy of a book he had written called Fountain Society once for me) and found him to be charming in every which way, it’s sad to see.
The film’s plot concerns seven children who happen to be born the night a serial killer dies. On that faithful night, he swore he would return to kill all seven of the children. And, when the murders start happening again 16 years later, questions start to rise about whether he is reincarnated as one of the kids, is he still alive? Or, did The Ripper come back from the dead? Every so often it seems that Craven is convinced he can make a fabled killer much in the same vain as he did Freddy Krueger way back in 1984. But, much like his attempt Shocker back in 1989, this thing falls flat before it even gets going. With every trick Craven tries to pull out, from smoke machines to rain to the old adage of scary railroad tracks, it seems that Craven is just out of touch. He is on the right track, as it seems like a tale told straight from the campfire. But this story, concerning all seven of these kids and their upcoming inevitable fate, is, well, dead on the railroad tracks.
Watching this movie, it baffles me as to why Craven would write something as contorted as this. From lines like “wake up and smell the Starbucks” and a stereotypical father that stepped in from every single horror movie from the 80s, every single portion of the writing in this film just induced groans, hoping it would get better. Now, I have no idea who does Craven’s casting. But, whoever did that job on this should never work again. I am all for young casts who do not contain a big name among them. After all, I agree with Rob Zombie when he says that the less big names, the more suspense on who is going to die. But, these kids literally look like they came straight from UPN and onto the screen. And, their acting is from public television, if that.
Is there ANYTHING that saves this movie from being a complete disaster? Honestly, no. The kills, while relatively bloody in the beginning, resort to the ‘let’s cut away to make them seem more brutal’ technique. With a fight in a darkened house finale, the bashing of rocking horses, and even an attempt to bring out a light-up house (as in Nightmare 3), Craven seriously strikes out in every single way. Like I said, as sad as it was to watch, it is even sadder to say. Because, I REALLY wanted to like this film. But, all I can figure was that he had to fulfill a contract, and the only way he could get the big payday Scream 4 would bring him was to make a horror film on his own. But, in watching this dud unfold, you really see how Kevin Williamson’s (Scream) writing saved Craven’s career. And, unless he wants to go to the straight to DVD market (which, quite frankly, is where My Soul to Take belongs) then he better find another young scribe to do a film he can lay his hands on. And, fast. Because, this road he is on now will take his soul faster than Freddy in the boiler room.