Jen's Rating:

1.5

Messier than a murder scene.

Who's In It: Max Thierot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Emily Meade, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Jeremy Chu, Paulina Olszynski, Raul Esparza, Jessica Hecht, Frank Grillo, Shareeka Epps

The Basics: A serial slasher named The Ripper murders a bunch of people in the sleepy small town of Riverton before his body disappears into a lake. Exactly 16 years later, seven local kids who were all born the day the Ripper died find that someone's picking them off one by one. Is it the Ripper, back from the dead? Or, more likely since this is a crazy horror movie with no ties to reality, has he been reincarnated into one of the teens, his evil soul driving them to kill? It's up to simple-minded kid named "Bug" (Max Thierot) with secret ties to the killer to get to the bottom of things before everyone ends up dead.

What's The Deal: My Soul to Take is the first movie since 1994's New Nightmare to be both written and directed by Wes Craven, and it borrows liberally from some of the horror maven's best known hits. There's the high school milieu where misfits and jocks and popular mean girls mingle, connected only by their own doomed fates. The tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of characters deconstructing their own motivations and arcs. The supernatural slasher who haunts his prey and seems to never die. Not that treading familiar ground is necessarily problematic; what bogs the film down most is messy editing, incomprehensible and unexplained logic, and convoluted dialogue that confuses more than it clarifies -- and the fact that its silly villain resembles a WWE wrestler wearing a store bought Rob Zombie costume who yells cheesy things like "Die! Die! Die!" when he attacks his victims. Everything interesting that My Soul to Take has to offer is buried underneath this mess of a film.

For Example: Craven gives star Max Thierot plenty to do as Bug, a cute social outcast whose innocence may or may not owe to a mental deficiency. Bug's tendency to mimic other kids and see dead people suggests that either supernatural forces are messing with him or he's schizophrenic, possibly even both. Ultimately those implications don't make a whole lot of sense, but they at least give former child actor Thierot (Gus in Catch That Kid, Ned Nickerson in Nancy Drew) some fascinating shades to play.

What I Thought I'd Missed Until I Realized That It Was Just Never Explained: The killer's reason for picking off the seven teenagers in the first place. My eyes glazed over long enough during an irritatingly long last act conversation about who the killer is that I was afraid I'd missed the explanation as to why the Ripper and his reincarnated soul had to kill these kids instead of slashing his way through any old citizens of Riverton. After all, random warm bodies were good enough for The Ripper the first time around. But there's no reason. He's after the seven kids (and whoever gets in his way) just because Wes Craven wrote it that way.

The Endangered Species You'll Wish Didn't Exist After My Soul To Take: The condor, a creature fabled to harbor souls that serves as the omnipresent animal mascot of the movie. Bug likes them so much he makes a condor costume that barfs on the school bully. Craven likes them so much he shows them circling in the sky every ten minutes. The killer's knife morphs into a condor's beak in the animated end credits, which incidentally feature a cartoon condor wearing a vest for no reason. The tragedy in Craven's obvious affection for the species is that after watching My Soul to Take, nobody will want to hear the word "condor" again, let alone save it from extinction.

Also: Don't watch it in 3-D. The post-conversion makes it less vibrant and adds virtually nothing in the way of either gimmicky pop-outs or immersive depth.

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