Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quick Look: MY SOUL TO TAKE

My Soul to Take is a low-impact genre exercise written and directed by Wes Craven. With the story of a dead schizophrenic serial killer who may or may not have returned from the dead after sixteen years just to kill a group of high schoolers, Craven’s offering up leftovers from his greatest accomplishments. It’s a little Nightmare on Elm Street here, a little Scream there. I had a good time. It’s a fairly shaggy slasher picture, but it’s sort of charming in its steady, almost anachronistic style and its straight-faced use of red herrings and obvious twisty horror plotting makes it a bit of an earnest, unselfconscious throwback. The killer’s prey is a carefully diverse group of teenagers (all in their twenties, of course.) There’s a jock (Nick Lashaway), popular girls (Emily Meade and Paulina Olszynski), an Evangelical Christian (Zena Grey), a geek (John Magaro), and a blind kid (Denzel Whitaker). Our main point of entry into the story, which is partly an unfocused coming-of-age story, is a troubled teen played by Max Thieriot, who handles quite well a part that calls for a blend of high emotion and low pop-psychological semi-supernatural oddness. He’s given several moments that could very well have become accidental camp in lesser hands. The cast has some nice banter mixed in with some real clunkers, like a failed bon mot from the Christian girl suggesting relief from the heat of their crisis with some “prayer conditioning.” But above all, Craven’s film works in its erratic, loopy way as a look at a community that is literally haunted by memories of sudden and scarring violence. Its high point comes not from a particularly frightening scare or a squeamishly gross gash of gore, but instead from a scene that finds a brother and a sister, both marked by the town’s killings of sixteen years prior, smashing apart the last relics of their tainted memories.

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