My Soul To Take moves around a lot but doesn’t go anywhere

My Soul To Take – 2010

Directed and Written by Wes Craven

Starring Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker, Raul Esparza, Shareeka Epps,  John Magaro, Zena Gray, Emily Meade, Jessica Hecht, Harris Yulin

Harris Ulin is one of my favorite character actors.  The first time I remember seeing him was as the grouchy Judge Stephen Wexler in Ghostbusters II, playing a very loose approximation of Judge Wapner from the People’s Court.  A few years later, I saw him as Stuart Smalley’s Dad in Stuart Saves His Family and I enjoyed him there, too.  He has a delightful absurdity mixed with seriousness that is hard for normal folks to achieve.  When I saw him in the opening scenes as the psychiatrist for Abel Plankov, the multi-soul infested serial killer of My Soul To Take, I had a glimmer of hope that this might be a movie that gives me a Harris Yulin fix.  When he dies just two scenes later, my heart sank.

The fact that I lament the fate of Harris Yulin should give a clue to the rest of the movie.  All I could think, as the series of 7 kids born the night of the serial killer’s supposed death are hunted down and slain, is how much better it would be if the movie had old, crotchety Harris Yulin to bounce things off of, ala Christopher Lloyd in Piranha or, more classically, Donald Pleasance in the classic Halloween.  If he had actually employed this cliche, I think the film might have been a touch better.

The deaths come fast and nonsensically in Wes Craven’s self-directed script.  We are not given much chance to care (or not care) about the stereotypical characters jammed in the camera one after the other.  The facts are played fast and loose.  The child survivors of the serial killer have grown up to be the epitome of innocence and its opposite.  Seemingly, at first it is portrayed that nobody in the town seemed to know about their connection until, as the slicing and dicing begins to ramp up, everyone seems to know.  I would say it is confusing, but I would rather say it’s just not interesting.

As with many genre movies, there seems to be a lot left on the cutting room floor here.  What seems to have been affected the most, though, are the attack scenes.  I don’t think I have ever seen such a tame series of violent cutaways.  Everything comes from an impossible angle and lumbers awkwardly.  None of this is scary.  Instead of feeling threatened by the presence, or the shape of one, one really gets the feeling that this bad guy could pretty much be pushed away and told to bugger off.  Any high school student could have made this film with 1/10 th the budget.

The acting seems to be more a series of shouted lines than characters with any set of cohesive thoughts or, heaven forbid, plotting.  I really don’t know how this movie got made this way with someone of Craven’s time-tested talent and skill.  Craven’s made his share of clunkers, of course, like Vampire in Brooklyn and Deadly Friend, but who would have expected he would have revealed such a pile of trash after a five-year hiatus.

Don’t bother with this film.  It won’t do more than bother you.

(*1/2 out of *****)

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