My Soul To Keep (2010, d. Wes Craven)
The reason I never really followed the Nightmare On Elm Street horror series beyond the first movie was because the concept never attacked me, so to speak. I know people enjoy their serial killers, or blood and mayhem but I have to believe in what I’m watching for 93 minutes. Nightmare, directed by Wes Craven was about a serial killer, Freddy Kreuger, a nine-inched nailed spector who hunts teenage victims in their dreams. The teenagers are the surviving children of a mob who burned Kreuger to death because he had murdered children (molested in the 2010 remake). It’s a pretty simple, although supernatural, slasher concept that was understandably popular and basically repeated for 10 sequels. I, personally, found it too simple and too separate from my anxiety portfolio to ever be interesting. Craven has returned now with something called My Soul To Take and comparing the coherency of this new concept makes Nightmare On Elm Street read like “Ulysses.”
Here goes. A guy who has been mis-diagnosed as schizophrenic, stabbs seven people to death, stealing their souls, while in unconscious thrall to his evil personality nicknamed “The Riverton Ripper.” When he is captured and demobilized, the souls within him escape and infiltrate the bodies of seven babies born that same night at Riverton General. Fast-forward 16 years. The Riverton Seven, now teenagers, are marking the solemn anniversary of Ripper Day by participating in a ritualized puppet show that is supposed to call The Ripper back for a confrontation. Among the seven is Bug, the fearful, perhaps schizophrenic, perhaps telepathic, surviving son of The Riverton Ripper (Bug, doesn’t know he’s the son, but everybody else in town does). Someone wearing the ugly, lifesize Ripper puppet costume, acquires the Ripper’s signature weapon, a fold-out knife with the word “vengence” engraved, and starts the business of murdering the Riverton Seven one-by-one. As it appears The Ripper is finally coming for him, Bug goes through a mild metamorphosis and decides to face his fears. When only Bug and his best friend Alex are left, they accuse each other of carrying the inhabitant soul of The Ripper. Bug, stopping to explain in great deatail how he traced back Alex’s movements, proves how only Alex can be The Ripper. He stabs Alex in the abdomen with The Ripper’s knife. Bug, once the object of everyone’s quiet pity is now a hero for rescuing Riverton from The Ripper, even though everyone The Ripper returned to kill is now dead.
Come to think of it, an ugly, vengeful killer returning from the dead to possess people and murder a circle of impartial teenagers is the same story as A Nightmare On Elm Street! But what’s most ironic about this convoluted supernatural/natural movie is the amount of time dedicated to having characters try to explain it to the audience. The murders aren’t very gory and The Ripper’s appearances are never much of a surprise. Given all of Craven’s experience in depicting bloody murder and horror cinema’s advancements in senseless torture, I find the killings here rather uninspired. Yet, characters take an inordinate amount of on-screen time explaining what they’re going to do, what they’re doing as they’re doing it, and why they did it. There is a lot of dialoge but I’m not sure what it’s ever in service too. It doesn’t help much in combing out all the tangles over who The Ripper was, who The Ripper is now, and what’s really bugging Bug. I’m not a fan of violence for violence sake, but this movie would have benefited from not taking itself so damn seriously, telling less, showing more, and hacking up more pre-maritally lustful teenagers.
By the way, My Soul To Take was cynically released as 3D. There’s not much real 3D in it. It was a trend-driven afterthought, added to bump the ticket price up by $4 and probably is not the least of reasons why it flopped at the box office. Don’t fall for it either. Any of it.