Friday, March 22, 2013

Movies That Suck: My Soul To Take (2010)

You know those movies that you realize are going to make for a miserable viewing experience as soon as you start watching one of them? This was a big example of that for me. Barely two minutes into this movie, I was so damn confused and had no idea what was going on that I thought to myself, "Oh, boy. I'm in for it!" And it got so much worse from there that, when I got to the 48-minute mark in this 108-minute movie, I was about to turn it off, thinking, "Man, I don't know if I can take another hour of this." But, I stuck to it and made it through because, as Brad Jones, a.k.a. the Cinema Snob, has said time after time, I didn't want to give this movie the satisfaction of making me give up (even movies that I have turned off at some point I've eventually gone back and finished). I sure didn't feel like I had accomplished anything when I made it to the end, though. In fact, I felt as if I had come out of a bad fight and lost, which is weird because I went into My Soul To Take expecting to have a good time. Now, that's not to say that I thought it was going to be great or anything, especially since I had heard a lot of people say that this movie was awful, However, the reason I was expecting to have a good time nonetheless was because I had heard so many say that this was a case of a movie being so bad that it was enjoyable. And to them, I have to say, "Okay, you're just wrong." I don't usually say that about anyone's opinion but in this case, I'm just dumbfounded at the idea that someone could get any enjoyment out of this piece of crap. This movie fails in every conceivable way that a movie, (not just a horror movie but a movie in general), can. It's not scary, it's cliched, derivative, uninspired, very convoluted, has characters that you don't care about at all, and, above everything else, is just stupid and boring. And before we get in-depth into the review, I want to apologize in advance if I miss or mess up some plot-points because I was barely paying attention to it when I was watching it again for this review (which was only the second time I had seen it) and, honestly, I don't give a fuck if I get something wrong in this instance!

Abel Plenkov is a man with a severe case of multipe-personality disorder, with one of his personas being that of the Ripper, a merciless killer who has been terrorizing the small town of Riverton. One night, Plenkov's evil persona takes control of him, forcing him to murder his pregnant wife as well as his psychiatrist before he's finally killed by the police after his double-life is uncovered. Sixteen years later, "Ripper Day" is being celebrated by the Riverton Seven, a group of teenagers who were born at the exact moment that the Ripper died that night. They take part in a tradition of driving away the Ripper's evil spirit at the site where he was killed but, when this year's ceremony is interrupted by the police, who've been informed that Ripper Day is no longer a holiday, it seems as though this allows the vengeful killer to return from the dead and prey on the Riverton Seven. The following day, Adam "Bug" Hellerman, the most emotionally troubled member of the group, struggles not only with his personal problems but with a bizarre, mob-like scenario at his school where the jocks are ordered to beat on other kids. As the murders continue and appear to influence his personality, it eventually culminates in Bug discovering that not only has the Ripper actually returned but also that he has a personal connection to the killer that many in the town have known of but never told him. However, does that mean that the Ripper is getting his revenge through Bug or is he doing it through someone close to him?

The saddest thing about this review is that this is not only the first film by Wes Craven that I did (the reason being that I had the Blu-Ray and wanted to review the movie so I could get rid of it) but that it was the only one I got to during his lifetime. In any case, Craven was a rather odd duck in the pantheon of the masters of horror, in my opinion, in that his filmography is very uneven, ranging from beloved genre classics and tentpoles like A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream movies (the original trilogy, anyway), as well as gritty grindhouse exploitation films like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, to movies that are criminally underrated like The People Under the Stairs and Wes Craven's New Nightmare (the latter of which is actually both my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street and Craven movie), movies that are pecular but are interesting and enjoyable, like Deadly Friend and Shocker, and movies that are so bad that they're excruciating to sit through, like The Hills Have Eyes Part II and Vampire in Brooklyn. It's almost like he himself had a split personality, one being a filmmaker whom you could easily call a genius and the other being a completely clueless person who wouldn't know a good script if it bit him (although, given what I've read since his passing, it seems as though the studios were often the reason why some of his movies ended up as bad as they did). Overall, while I do think he was a better filmmaker than Tobe Hooper for the most part, I honestly wouldn't put him anywhere near the same league as people like John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, or even George Romero for that matter. But, while I haven't seen every one of Craven's films (I have seen almost all of them at this point, though), I don't see how any of them could be worse than My Soul To Take. It's particularly disheartening to know that he wrote the thing as well as directed it, the first time he had done so since New Nightmare, because that means he must be held responsible for a lot of it. I really would have liked to have asked him what in the hell went on during production because something drastic had to have happened, especially since the film was originally supposed to be released in 2009 and was originally titled 25/8 (what does that even mean?) Craven even said that making the movie was a difficult experience, which I wouldn't doubt at all either! And, worst of all, this and Scream 4, which came out the following spring (and, to be fair, is infinitely more watchable than this), were the last movies he released, making for a sad way to end a fairly solid career.

One other thing I have to comment on before we really dive into the meat of this review is the fact that this movie was converted to 3-D when it was released. Why?! I can understand why movies like the remake of Piranha that came out a couple of months before this was converted to 3-D because that type of film lends itself to it (and, from what I hear, actually worked rather well too), but My Soul To Take? I get that the only real reason they did it was because 3-D was becoming annoyingly popular around this time but still, why convert this type of movie to 3-D and then do absolutely nothing with it? And I mean that last part literally because, watching this on Blu-Ray, I don't see anything in this movie that seemed as if it took advantage of the 3-D. Nothing is thrown at the camera or anything like that, and while there may have been some atmospheric 3-D, like some depth being added to the background, I doubt that it would have been all that impressive. Also, the opening title is as uncreative and generic as you can get, just being white letters on a black background and simply popping up, staying onscreen for a few seconds, and then disappearing in a single cut. It doesn't even come at the camera like the titles of Friday the 13th Part 3 and Jaws 3 did either, giving no indication whatsoever that this was shown in 3-D, and there are also no other opening credits, so it's almost like that title was just an afterthought. All I can say is that I feel bad for the poor people who paid their money to see this in 3-D because it sounds like it was a massive rip-off. Hell, I can tell just from looking at the movie itself that, if I had seen it in the theater, I would have been absolutely miserable, so I can't imagine having to sit through it in 3-D!

Amongst its many other faults, one of the movie's biggest shortcomings is the cast of characters. While there are a couple that I kind of like, for the most part none of these people are likable or interesting in any way, shape, or form and this, unfortunately, goes for the lead, Adam "Bug" Hellerman (Max Thieriot). I feel kind of bad for giving this guy crap because he looks like he's trying his darnedest to come across as a troubled kid, having to deal with his school's insane mob-like system of students, a sister who absolutely despises him, and an apparent severe case of multiple personality disorder all his own. It's also revealed near the end of the film that he's the child that Abel Plenkov's wife was carrying when he murdered her and that they just barely managed to save his life, which gives him a very personal and horrific tie to the Ripper. And, of course, there's the simple fact that the Ripper has killed a lot of his classmates and his family members, so that gives him incentive to try to stop him, leading to what is meant to be a sort of redemption for his inability to, "drive the Ripper back," at the beginning of the film. So, to be fair, Thieriot has a lot to try to act through in this part; unfortunately, I don't think he succeeds at all. While he doesn't come across as douchey like a lot of the other teens in this movie, he's just not a very good actor, coming across as rather wooden and unable to do anything except act awkward and geeeky. They try to pass him off as such a complete innocent that he won't even say the word "fuck" but that, in and of itself, is cheesy more than anything else, and he soon starts saying the word a lot, making that initial innocence totally pointless. I don't find the parts where he temporarily loses his mind to be at all creepy (I find them to be just weird and annoying, actually) and I couldn't care less about his tie to the Ripper or whether or not he's going to overcome him. And let's not even get into how he barely responds to his best friend dying at the end of the movie. He's just a nothing character to me: uninteresting, bland, and so awkward and weird at times that it's annoying.

Where's Christine when you need her?
I kind of like John Magaro as Bug's best friend, Alex Dunkelman (I agree with Brad Jones when he said that he looks a lot like Keith Gordon from Christine). I don't know why but there are some things he does in this flick that I kind of enjoy, such as the fake positive spin he tries to put on things, like when he tells Bug to tell those that pick on him, "Thanks, that felt good," whenever they hit him, and the like. You also can't help but feel for him since he has this horrible asshole stepfather who beats on him for no reason whenever he gets a chance and also because he seems like a decent kid overall. But still, that said, I don't really care about the friendship between him and Bug. For one, you don't get that much of an idea of how long they've been friends or how deep their connection really is. Sure, you get the feeling that they hang out a lot but, other than Alex telling Bug to smile back at whatever crap life throws at him, their friendship seems to have no substance to it save when one of them says that the other is his best friend (like I said, Bug doesn't come across as that broken up when Alex dies at the end of the movie). For another, they tend to have these weird, fast-paced conversations between each other that come across like Craven is trying his best to be Quentin Tarantino but, in the end, it feels unnatural and annoying. There's also this whole thing they have between each other where Alex calls Bug, "Condor," and Bug calls Alex "Crow." I'll get more into that later on but when they do this stuff, it just makes you go, "What?!", because you're given no explanation for it save for some vague, mythological contexts concerning those birds and even that doesn't explain why they would call each other those names. Finally, it's revealed in the end that the Ripper has possessed Alex's body and has been using him to commit the murders, which is not only very predictable but, as we'll get into later, it makes no sense and is one of several elements that makes the revelation of what's exactly going on really confusing and convoluted.

Some of the victims in the film you barely know anything about. For instance, all you know about the first victim, Jay Chan (Jeremy Chu), is that he's one of Bug's friends and feels that, in order to cross the bridge that the Ripper supposedly haunts without getting attacked, he has to spit in the water. And since he's the first to get it, it seems as if he was ill-informed on that score. As far as Jerome King (Denzel Whitaker), another one of Bug's friends goes, all you know about him is that he's African-American, blind, and that his sister is a member of this group of students that controls the school (at least, I think she is) and she tells him to stay away from Bug and Alex. He doesn't even have the dignity of his attack by the Ripper being shown on-camera; it's just talked about and he dies soon afterward from his stab wounds. The other character in the film that I kind of liked was Zena Grey as Penelope Bryte, a devout Christian who often prays to God, senses that this is the day that the Ripper will return to claim them, and tries her best to warn everybody. The major reason I like her is because she's one of the few students who isn't one of Bug's immediate friends that doesn't act like a complete ass to him and, in fact, seems to care about him, helping him and Alex when they're being assaulted by one of the major "enforcers" of the school mob. She doesn't get a lot of screentime or development otherwise but that was still enough for me to like her. Unfortunately, she's like the second person to get killed, so I was just crap out of luck with this movie as far as really likable characters go.

There's the stereotypical bully, Brandon (Nick Lashaway), who beats on Bug and Alex a lot, especially since he's being ordered to do so by the school's mob. He's also stereotypically sex-hungry, demanding a blow job from the one who tells him to beat on Bug and Alex, as well as chasing after said girl when she refuses to give it to him later on (was he planning to rape her?) I don't think it's going too far to say that he's also the typical dumb jock, given how he falls for that girl's very obvious ploy to get away from him. Weirdly enough, though, after all that, they actually try to give him some character depth when he finds out that he impregnated the principal's fifteen-year old daughter, a revelation that seems to really shake him. And later on when he's killed by the Ripper, he's asked if there's anybody he wants to say goodbye to and his response is, "My unborn child." I'm like, "Are you actually trying to make him sympathetic?" I'm sorry but it's a little hard to feel bad for someone who mercilessly beat and picked on two students (even when he wasn't ordered to do so, I might add), demanded a blow job from a girl, and chased after said girl like a rapist when he didn't get it. It's not how you do things and Wes Craven, of all people, should have known that.

The character that pisses me off the most is Bug's bitch-and-a-half sister, Fang (Emily Meade). This woman is absolutely loathsome. You find out that she despises Bug because, after their father was taken down by the police, he was seen as a miracle since they were able to get him out of his mother's womb in time, whereas she was seen as a painful reminder, and she takes it out on him by ordering others to beat on him (not to mention beating him up herself at one point), constantly belittling him in the most venomous ways possible, and, ultimately, telling him that he's ruined her life for that reason I mentioned earlier. Holy shit, if she was my sister and did that to me, I would have beaten the living crap out of her myself and screamed at her, "IT'S NOT MY FAULT! GET OVER IT!" (And just for the record, I do not condone violence towards women.) Good God, I've never understood how someone could hold such a grudge against someone their entire life, making themselves an absolutely bitter, miserable person. And just like Brandon, we're suddenly supposed to sympathize with Fang when she sporadically has a change of heart after Bug smashes the rocking horse (I don't get the significance of that thing, honestly) that she gave him as an insulting birthday present in her room and says, "We're even." Now, she suddenly seems to care about her brother, helping him to hide from the Ripper when he attacks them in the house later on, and actually hugs him when he comes out of the house at the end after the Ripper has been vanquished. No! Mr. Craven, you cannot expect me to just suddenly drop everything and sympathize with a character who's been an asshole for the majority of the film, no matter the reason for the change of heart. I cannot so easily forget that she had tried to make Bug's life a living hell, beat the living crap out of him at one point, and pretty much told him that she hated him with every fiber of her being. Yeah, Fang can go to hell for all I care.

I don't have much to say about Brittany Cunningham (Paulina Olsynski), one of the school's most popular students who also happens to be one of Fang's gang members. She's the one who tells Brandon to beat on Bug and Alex, going as far as to distract a nearby cop when it comes time for the beatdown, and is also the one whom Brandon demands oral sex from as payment. I would make a comment about her being the stereotypical dumb blonde but, honestly, she doesn't seem to be all that stupid. Like I said earlier, she's smart enough to distract Brandon's dumb ass when he shows up and demands that blow job from her and also has enough wits about her to call the police on Brandon when she discovers Penelope's body while being chased by him (she actually did have good reason to suspect Brandon of killing her since Penelope humiliated him in front of her and he threatened to get her for that). There's also a hint that she secretly does like Bug, given how Fang uses that to make her do what she wants, and even after Brittany comes across him in the girl's bathroom and calls him a pervert, she says something comforting to him under her breath before changing it to save face and walking off. Ultimately, though, like everyone else in this movie, she's another faceless teenager who's only reason for existing is to get killed by the Ripper.

While we're on the subject, let's talk about this whole "mob" thing that's going on at the high school. What in the name of all that is decent is up with Wes Craven's warped idea of high school life in this movie? You have Fang and her gang who order other students, mainly Brandon, to beat on some of the "lower" ones and they even have a system for how intense the beatdown should be, like, "Give Bug a 3 and Alex an 8." Apparently, there are also penalties for beating on someone when you're not supposed to, like when Brandon is warned what Fang will do if she finds out that he's been "moonlighting." (Yes, they actually do say that.) Moreover, everyone else in the school is actually scared to death of Fang's mob, with some girls at one point warning anybody who's near the girls' bathroom at a certain time (in this case, it was either Alex or Bug, I can't remember) to get away from it because it's going to be a "Fang Zone" in a minute or so. And, yeah, Fang and her lackeys actually hold a type of mafia meeting in there, going through the day's business as well as smoking a cigarette in Fang's case. In fact, this is another reason for me not to like Fang. In addition to the crap she puts Bug and Alex through, she tries to control every aspect of her lackeys' lives, actually telling them whom they should date and whom they shouldn't, and threatening them in various ways (mostly exposing something they want to be left secret) if they refuse to do what she says. This goes beyond Fang simply being a bitch and into her being freaking insane! Seriously, what is this girl's problem? And, finally, several times in the film, there's talk about a "revolution" among the students, that they're going to take control of the school away from Fang. Revolution?! This is high school, not Gangs of New York! Like George Romero's take on the internet age in Diary of the Dead, this comes across like an old man talking about something he had absolutely no clue about and couldn't possibly comprehend. I know that it's a popular thing in movies and TV shows, like Disney's Recess, to have the school system be structured in the same way as big cities and towns, with the government that's supposed to keep things in order and run everything, i.e. the teachers and faculty, and an underground network of gangs, secret meetings, and so on. But, here's a reality check: that's not real. At least, it wasn't in the schools I went to. Yeah, there were clubs and there were bullies who did seem to act in groups, but nothing like the mob BS in this movie. Do you have any idea how much trouble these kids would be in if the teachers found out what was going on? And furthermore, why doesn't someone tell the faculty or the principal about this? What is Fang going to do about it, kill them? (Actually, she's so crazy that I wouldn't put it past her.) Now, to be fair, maybe by some slim chance there are high schools where this type of stuff does go on and if so, to reference Brad Jones once again, I'm glad I don't go to school anymore because that would suck big time! However, I feel confident in saying that this scenario is just a concept dreamt up by someone who was very out of touch with how things operate in the modern world (at least, I hope that was the case).

The adult characters in this movie fair even worse than the teenagers. The only decent one is Jessica Hecht as May, Bug and Fang's adopted mother, who comes across as really caring towards Bug and tries her best to protect him from all of the bad stuff around him, such as those who think he should be institutionalized and Fang. She's also one of many adults who has tried to shelter Bug from the horrible truth that's eventually revealed to him. Overall, not a bad character, but she's severely underdeveloped and gets killed off-camera, so it's a waste. Frank Grillo didn't impress me at all as Detective Paterson, the guy who investigated the murders at the beginning of the film, which led to him shooting down the Ripper, and takes up the investigation of the similar murders that are happening now. I feel they could have done a lot more with him, particularly in regards to the scene near the end where Paterson confronts Bug, whom he thinks is the killer, and says something along the lines of, "We all wanted the best life possible for you." Like he did in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven is playing with the idea that the adults in the town know the dirty secret that they feel the kids shouldn't and it could have worked just as well here as it did there, particularly with the character of Paterson, but it ultimately becomes superfluous. Besides, Paterson is killed shortly after that moment, rendering it pointless anway. The only purpose of the character of Jeanne-Baptiste (Danai Gurira), the police medical examiner, is to provide exposition, which ultimately only adds to the very confusing concept of the Ripper. There's also some banter between her and Paterson about how, sixteen years later, they've suddenly swapped beliefs, with Paterson talking about the supernatural and her talking in terms of rational science, something that, again, could have been interesting but is regulated to being almost non-existent. The rest of the adult characters are either very typical or add nothing to the movie. Dr. Blake (Harris Yulin), the counselor of Abel Plenkov? Nope. Principal Pratt (Dennis Boutsikaris), the school principal? Does nothing except suggest that Bug be put in an institution and learns that his fifteen-year old daughter has been impregnated (which doesn't go anywhere). Quint (Lou Sumrall), Alex's absusive stepfather? Typical alcoholic asshole who hates his stepson for no reason and beats on him constantly. We don't even get to see him get killed, so there was no payoff to the one horrible abuse scene that we see. There are other characters that I could talk about but I'm not going to waste my time since they're so unimportant as well as because I could easily bore you with those details. Bottom line, the characters in this movie are mostly just a bunch of blank, cardboard cut-outs meant to represent human beings.

It's bad enough when the characters you're meant to like and sympathize with are poorly constructed but, when your villain is not interesting in the slightest as well, you're dead in the water, and that's another problem with My Soul To Take: the Ripper is one of the most generic villains imaginable. He comes in one of two forms: a personality whose voice comes out of other characters' mouths or as a very tall guy dressed in black, with long black hair and a face that is covered by some type of mask with a big, grizzly beard (you hardly get a good look at it and, as you can see from that image, when you do it's so bland that it's not worth even trying to describe) and, either way, he's not enjoyable or intimidating at all. All he does is lay out a bunch of threats peppered with a lot of profanity with no charisma or real menace to them. The murders, which he commits with a curved knife that has the word VENGEANCE written on the blade, are very lame as well, which is very disappointing since the violence in a Wes Craven movie is often brutal enough to really make you wince. The kills are nothing more than typical stabbings and throat slicings, with no creativity or any impressive gore at all. And, like I said, his look when he actually appears throughout the film is as uninteresting as you can get and he's not scary at all. It's like, "Wow, Mr. Craven, you really slapped this villain together in about two seconds, didn't you?"

Not only is the Ripper a lame villain but the mythology surrounding him, as well as what exactly his plan is, is very confusing and convoluted. He starts out as one of many personalities that the character of Abel Plenkov (Raul Esparza) has in his head, forcing him to commit gruesome crimes at the beginning of the film. Fair enough, but then, we suddenly get the idea that the Ripper may be more than just a second personality seeing as how, when he's confronted by the police at the beginning of the film, Abel gets shot numerous times and yet, will not go down. Even after he's apparently killed, he comes back to life inside the ambulance, causes it to crash, and appears to escape. However, there's no sign of him whatsoever and we're led to believe that he did, in fact, die by drowning. So, this guy can shake off a bunch of bullets like they're nothing but he can't swim?! (Just you wait until we get to how he's vanquished for good at the end of the movie. It's even lamer.) Now, in spite of how dumb that was, I would be willing to roll with the idea that the Ripper was actually an evil spirit that had possessed Abel's body rather than just another personality but then, we're told this idea that all of the other personalities this guy had within him were souls as well. Okay, how in the name of God did this guy manage to get possessed by so many souls? Are they the souls of the people the Ripper killed? And if so, why didn't they go to either heaven or hell instead of possessing Abel's body? Does the Ripper want to keep them all in the same body so he can torment them some more? What is going on in this movie?! As I've said before, I don't mind things being left ambiguous if it makes it more creepy but in this case, so much stuff is left unexplained that it makes it confusing and hard to understand.

But it gets even worse when we get to Bug and his tripping out. Just like his father, he seems to suffer from multiple personality syndrome but, as with Abel, we soon find out that it's something more. Apparently, those souls that were inside Abel went into the various kids who were born that night and each time the Ripper kills one of the kids, that soul goes into Bug and he starts to take on that person's characteristics, (this plotpoint reminds me of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, where the lead teenager in that film receives the powers and abilities of every person that Freddy kills). Fair enough, except that Bug starts to mimic the person himself, not the souls that went from Abel into them... unless those souls were like that to begin with? And what's more, Bug starts mimicking people who aren't even dead, like Fang or even Alex, the latter in a bizarre scene in the hallway where he starts acting like a mirror image of him before Alex literally knocks some sense into him. In one scene that is really weird even for this movie (I'll elaborate on it shortly because it deserves its own section), Bug and Alex give are giving a class report and, inexplicably, Bug's voice becomes rather deep and demonic-sounding, akin to what happens when the Ripper possesses somebody... except Bug is never possessed by the Ripper! So, what in the hell was that about? And, again, what exactly is the Ripper's plan? Is he killing the teenagers to get those souls back? If so, then why are they going into Bug? Because he's Abel's son? How is that an explanation? And at the end of the movie, just when you think you've figured out what the Ripper's plan might be, the character himself throws you for another confusing loop. After he reveals that he's possessing Alex, he comes out with some convoluted plan that I can't even keep straight. I think he tries to blackmail Bug into taking the wrap for the murders and allowing him to continue to inhabit Alex's body or something like that. He also said something along the lines of, "The two of us could come off as the town heroes." I'm sorry, by the end of this movie, I was so bored and confused that I was barely paying attention and even my second viewing for this review didn't help because I still couldn't understand what was going on. And here's one last thing that doesn't make any sense: if the Ripper was possessing Alex's body the whole time, then how was he able to appear seven-feet tall when he was dressed up in the costume and attacking people? Does he have the ability to transform the body he's possessing? And if he was possessing Alex, then what was it that Penelope saw lurking outside in the woods during that scene where Bug and Alex were giving their presentation? Does that mean he can exit the body and roam around? If so, why possess someone to begin with? Ugh, this crap makes my head hurt. None of it makes any sense and if you try really hard to figure it out, all you'll accomplish is giving yourself a migraine. I've heard that Wes Craven said that the script was rewritten several times and boy, does it feel like it! It's so obvious that he never got to a final draft that ironed out what was going on in a satisfactory way before he had to start shooting and the end result is a movie that is an absolutely incoherent mess.

Just as head-scratching as the Ripper is this movie's fascination with condors. Bug in particular is kind of obsessed with them, listening to a radio show early on in the film that's talking about how they're steadily coming back from the brink of extinction, the disgusting ways in which they defend themselves, and the mythology surrounding them. All of this information comes to a head in what is undoubtedly the most surreal, bizarre, and inexplicable scene in the entire film (and that's saying something). Bug and Alex are giving a presentation about the condor during one of their classes and while Bug spouts out various facts about the species in that inexplicably deep voice of his, Alex puts on this elaborate condor suit, complete with fake black feathers and a big head, and goes around the room, flapping his wings and squawking. And as if this spectacle wasn't weird enough, when Brandon ignores Bug's very blatant warning about what might happen if you mess with a condor by pulling out one of the suit's feathers, Alex activates some sort of pump in the suit that makes it actually puke on Brandon! The bully naturally doesn't take too kindly to this and immediately attacks Alex, who retaliates after getting beaten on by activating another mechanism in the suit that makes it crap on Brandon. All the while, Bug continues to go on and on with his report, eventually ending it by proclaiming that you don't mess with the condor, after which all I could do was laugh and say, "You damn right!" This part has to be seen to be believed, it's so ridiculous. And you know what honestly offended me the most? Afterward, Alex tells Bug that being in that suit made him feel like Mothra. It's just a personal thing but, being such an enormous fan of Godzilla and the like, my reaction was, "Oh, don't mention Toho's awesome monster flicks in this piece of shit!"

I wish I could say that's the extent of the film's odd fascination with the condor but I'd be lying. It also serves as a bizarre tie between Bug and Alex, with Alex calling Bug, "Condor," and Bug calling him, "Crow." At one point early on, Alex even tells Bug, "You're a condor. You eat death for breakfast. Remember that." And according to Bug, he calls Alex "Crow" because crows are guardians or something of the like, which he mentions when they're walking through the woods near his house and he points to this fake crow sitting on a tree branch (somehow, ravens got thrown into the mix as well but I'm not even going to attempt to figure out that significance). Hell, there's even a scene where Alex is watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds on TV (another awesome flick that I didn't want mentioned in this awful movie) and since it's the scene where the crows attack the school-children, it prompts him to say out loud how they have a higher score than the humans. And finally, there's the ending, where Bug is forced to kill Alex in order to get rid of the Ripper once and for all. After he does so, they have that odd Condor and Crow banter again and after Alex dies, Bug says, "Fly now. I know you're up there, and I know we're down here." (?) He ends the movie with a speech that begins thusly: "I am the condor. The Keeper of the Souls. I eat death for breakfast." I kind of get that significance since the souls of the victims did go into Bug, and I also kind of get the whole crow thing since Alex was more or less Bug's guardian, teaching him how to "be a man" or something similar, so maybe it does make sense in some weird way. But, the manner in which Craven gives it to you is just vague and bizarre and we're never given a concrete reason as to why they call each other Condor and Crow other than to have some way for the condor's mythology to fit into the plot. A little exposition on why they started doing that (perhaps it's tied to something that happened to them when they were kids), would have been helpful. Even though you can figure a little bit of it out in hindsight like I just did, it still makes you scratch your head, particularly with what Bug said to Alex after he died (I still don't get that at all). And just to confound you even more, Craven places the first section of the ending credits over a weird animated backdrop involving condors flying over the town, scratching up the screen, and so on (I swear, one of the condors did something similar to the Moon Walk!) I don't know about you but when I went into a movie called My Soul To Take, I didn't expect all of this hullabaloo about condors, particularly an animated ending credits sequence devoted to them!

If you come away from this feeling that I didn't put as much effort into this review as I normally do, I apologize. Here's the thing: when a movie is this generic, confusing, and bland, you tend to lose interest in it very quickly and before long, you're barely paying attention to it and just wishing that it would end. My Soul To Take is a perfect example of how excruciatingly boring a movie can get when you don't care about any of the characters, their conflicts, what's going on with the plot as a whole, and so on. I wasn't kidding when I said at the beginning that I would probably get a lot of details in this movie wrong simply because I was barely paying attention to it when I watched it again for this review. I tried. God knows I tried! But I just found it impossible to stay focused on what was going on or being said (I turned on the subtitles just so I could actually see what was being said since so much of it is spoken so quickly and that hardly helped!) This movie is so boring to talk about that, when I was in the middle of writing this review, I accidentally did something that about caused me to have a heart attack. I don't know what I did but I hit some button that deleted the entire fucking review! Yeah, somehow I ended up deleting all of that excruciating effort in one clumsy stroke andI almost went postal because I did not want to rewrite this whole damn thing again. Fortunately, though, Blogspot has an Undo and Redo button which enabled me to recover what I had deleted but man, I almost decided right then and there, "Well, then, this review just won't see the light of day. I'm not talking about this bullshit again!" And believe me, telling you about that near fatal incident was a lot more entertaining than talking about My Soul To Take itself. The good thing is that there's not much more I can say, so I can begin wrapping things up but, bottom line, this review, and that near catastrophe in particular, has probably taken a few years off my life.

The actual look of the film is fair enough. As I've said in the past, I'm not a fan of the way movies look nowadays, with color correction and the like, because it doesn't feel genuine to me. The murky picture quality and unnatural look of the colors from that process tend to give films a synthetic look that I'm not fond of at all. It feels to me more like you're watching a workprint instead than a finished movie. That said, though, My Soul To Take doesn't have much of that problem. Granted, it's still there and is recognizable, but it's not as nauseatingly pronounced as other films tend to be nowadays. I don't mind the setting of the film that much, either. Yes, we've so many movies set in these small towns that it's beyond stale but I didn't mind this location, especially the nighttime shots of the woods at the beginning that look pretty cool and atmospheric (too bad nothing's done with them). It was shot in Connecticut and while it doesn't look all that distinct or special, it feels like the type of place that lends itself to a story about evil in a small, innocent town (though, personally, I still prefer the towns in films like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Fright Night, or even the Scream films for that matter).

Like I said earlier, not only is the Ripper himself not that original of a villain but his murders are absolutely lame and unoriginal. All they consist of are just typical stabbings for the most part, although there is a moment at the beginning of the film where the Ripper does attempt to use a gun (he doesn't succeed, though). The killings are not only unimaginative but you barely see anything in the way of gore. Save for Brandon's death where we get a graphic closeup of blood coming out of his mouth after he's stabbed, the lack of blood in this movie is just laughable. Heck, I don't think you even see the initial attack on Brittany, seeing as how, after the Ripper kills Brandon, he says to himself, "Now, where did I leave your bitch?" and we then cut to Brittany, who is running through the woods with bloody stab marks on her back. Unless I got so bored that I momentarily passed out, I never saw the beginning of her attack. In fact, I don't remember how she was ultimately done in at all. (Probably wasn't much to write home about, anyway.) Actually, now that I think about it, that's what a lot of the blood in the movie is: blood on top of wounds that have been inflicted off-camera. Just lame. I feel so sorry for Vincent Schicchi and Josh Turi, the makeup effects artists on this thing. They must have been bored out of their skulls and just languishing during the filming.

I don't have a damn thing to say about the music score by Marco Beltrami. I literally don't remember a single tune from this entire movie; it's all just generic horror music that runs together, with no distinct themes at all. Beltrami tends to be a fairly hit and miss composer anyway. Except for Music of the Heart, he scored every one of Craven's films from the original Scream on and, while I do like a lot of the music that he composed for those films (a lot of his score for the first Scream was put into Halloween H2O as well), I wouldn't say that they're iconic. The same goes for his score for other stuff like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: it's fairly good and fits the images that it's put to but it's not something you'll be humming to yourself afterward. Weirdly enough, though, I do really like the score he made for the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, one of many aspects of that film that a lot of people despise. In short, Beltrami is the guy that you call when you want music that simply fits your visuals well; otherwise, there's nothing that special about his work. But, man, the score he did for this sucked just as bad as the movie itself. I can't even call it forgettable because that says that there was actually something there to forget. Like the movie, it's just a whole lot of nothing.

The songs on the soundtrack suck even worse than the score in my opinion and the reason I say that is because they're not only annoying but they're also the types of songs that particularly grate on your nerves when you're not enjoying the viewing experience, as was the case with me. There's actually a song called Fang's Gang by Danny Saber that plays in the scene where Fang and her lackeys are walking towards the girls' bathroom: cheesy, stupid, and makes the movie even more obnoxious than it already was. Even worse is the song that plays over the first part of the ending credits, which I think is Everything Touches Everything by Jesse Elliott. Whatever that song is, I find it to be very, very annoying. Imagine watching this bizarre, animated sequence involving condors while this song that constantly repeats the lyrics, "I am a man, I am a man!" plays over it. It's so bad and is quite possibly the perfect way to cap off an infuriating movie like this. And finally, another song by Elliott called I Want You To Keep Everything plays out the credits. I don't remember anything about that song either except it was another one that seemed to be saying, "Ha ha, you just wasted nearly two hours of your life on this piece of garbage!" There are other songs on the soundtrack but those are the ones that stuck out to me.

There's no nice way to say this so I'm not even going to try: My Soul To Take blows ass on every possible level. The characters are either bland, uninteresting, or loathsome, the villain is as uninspired and derivative as you can get, the story is a confusing mess with themes and deeper meanings that are so convoluted and contrived that trying to sort them out will make your head explode, the music score will not stick with you one little bit, and there's not even enough gore for you to enjoy this film on a level of simple, gratuitous entertainment. The studio behind it, Rogue Pictures, must have known that this movie was bad because not only did they convert the film to 3-D in a desperate attempt to squeeze a little bit more cash out of it but they also tried to drum up some publicity by staging a fake stabbing at the movie's premiere, making it look as if some guy got stabbed right in front of Wes Craven and the cast. The stunt didn't fool anybody and it didn't encourage people to go see the movie either. The film was a huge bomb, making back only $14 million out of the $25 million budget, and, coupled with the less than stellar performance of Scream 4 the following spring, could have been taken as a sign that Craven's days as an in-demand, not to mention a quality, filmmaker may have been behind him (again, it's a shame just how literal that notion turned out to be). I know there are some out there who find this movie to be so bad that it's good but, for my money, unless you're a big fan of Craven, you'd best steer clear of this huge misfire. As a reviewer on IMDB said, it's more like it should be called My Money To Take, because that's the only experience you'll get out of it.

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