Friday, October 22, 2010

Wes Craven's MY SOUL TO TAKE

4th\NW Quadrant: The Approval Matrix

From Hollywood by Brian Salisbury

Wes Craven is a revered name in the horror industry. One cannot run down a list of the greatest horror films of all time without at least mentioning A Nightmare on Elm Street. But the nasty little secret about Wes Craven is that, apart from that spark of competence, he is one of the most overrated directors of our time. The man has no grasp of performance, storytelling or cinematography and has limped along since A Nightmare on Elm Street traded upon his own name. The only other rays of light in his otherwise bleak filmography are A New Nightmare and Scream. But the appeal of both of those films is how self-aware and referential they are, not only to other, better horror films but, again, Craven’s own work!

So sitting down to view his newest film, My Soul to Take, I was skeptical, but, as always, hoping that Wes would prove me wrong. He did not. Take note of the title of this film and remember it well. Why? Because it will more than likely disappear from theaters in two weeks' time, and it will undoubtedly grace innumerable year-end Worst of 2010 lists.

The “story” revolves around a serial killer who dies and manages to parcel out his seven scattered personalities (or souls, I suppose) into the bodies of newborns. Sixteen years later those newborns are nubile teenagers who — you guessed it — get murdered because of this shaky connection to what has since become the town boogeyman.

How best to adequately chart the failures of this film? I honestly don't know where to begin. The cast, true to Craven’s impeccable lack of a nose for talent, is populated with some truly terrible young actors. Their line deliveries are flat and undisciplined, and it becomes impossible to sympathize with a single one of them.

This story is among the most lackluster of Craven’s already unimpressive catalogue. From start to finish, nothing makes sense, nothing fits and all must be explained through exposition machines because none of what we’re told is supported by a single preceding frame.

And beyond all of this, the film is savagely tedious. When examining the dialogue, the exaggerated — to a comic extent — high school experiences of the characters, and the after-school-special themes, Craven appears to be making a film aimed at 13-year-olds, forgetting that he’s actually making an R-rated slasher flick.

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