Written and directed by none other than Wes Craven, the man who gave us visceral, gut churning horror classics like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Last House On The Left, 2010's My Soul To Take looked like it could be a return to form for Craven. Once again playing in the R-rated field his early stuff was known for, this picture once again let Craven tell a story in a small town with a secret, the kind that worked so well when he unleashed Freddy Kruger on the masses. Sadly, this film is not a return to form at all, it's one misfire after another and the end result is one of the worst movies to come out of 2010.
Set in Riverton, Massachusetts, the film begins when a man named Able Plinkton (Raul Esparza) snaps thanks to the conflicting personalities residing inside him. He calls his shrink for help, but it's too late - he cuts his pregnant wife up with a knife after taking a few more victims earlier that day. The cops show up and shoot him down and the unborn baby is saved along with the couple's young daughter, but the ambulance carrying what's left of Abel goes off the road on the way to the hospital and explodes. As Abel is presumed dead, seven children are born in the Riverside hospital at the same time.
Cut sixteen years into the future and those kids, referred to as The Riverton Seven (not the most original name, but what are you gonna do...), are celebrating their collective sixteenth birthday with a bunch of other kids from the local high school. Every year one of the seven is required to push back the Ripper into the river when he appears - they do this ceremonially, of course, but when the cops show up just as Adam "Bug" Hellerman (Max Thieriot) is being coerced into attacking the Ripper puppet that's been created for this night, it seems that the Ripper has quite literally returned from where it was that he went. We learn this when, alone on the bridge on the way home, the first of the Ripperton Seven is sliced up and tossed into the water.
A few more murders later and, once the requisite cool kids, Brandon and Brittany (Nick Lashaway and Paulina Olszynski respectively), have made fun of Bug, it's starting to look like he might actually be the one behind the killings. His past seems well known to pretty much everyone but himself, and it appears to be catching up with him despite warnings from the sheepish ultra religious girl, Penelope (Zena Gray) and the support of his best friend, Alex (John Magaro). When his mother (Jessica Hecht) and older sister, Leah (Emily Meade), who goes by the nickname of Fang for reasons that are never explained, tell him the truth it might already be too late. The ripper is back with a vengeance and if Bug isn't the one behind the killings, he'll find out who is soon enough even if it costs him his life.
My Soul To Take has a few things that work in its favor. First off, it's well shot and makes good use of its small town locations by placing the action in and around some familiar suburban settings and letting all manner of eeriness play out in the New England woods. The camera work is smooth and cool and fairly effective and the picture has a lot of polish to it. It's also got a couple of good kill scenes scattered throughout its running time and it benefits from a moderately interesting concept.
More is the pity then that the film decides to go off into a few separate directions and leave massive, gaping logic holes in its wake at every turn. Adding insult to injury is the obvious use of CGI for blood, making scenes that could have very easily been done with practical effects work lose much of their impact. The casting is successful when it's casts beautiful people in the roles of beautiful people but completely wrong the rest of the time, allowing remarkably attractive actors and actresses slip awkwardly into roles of social outcasts, misfits and nerdy types. It doesn't work, and neither does much of the dialogue which comes across as ham-fisted, corny and crammed down the throats of a cast who don't look like they'd speak to one another in such terms. The whole movie is just painfully awkward and disjointed, and nothing about this film is scary or, worse yet, even remotely interesting aside from the basics of a setup that are abandoned in favor of jump scares and bad storytelling. The opening scene is strong enough to grab our attention but the film can't hold it once we pass the ten minute mark and that leaves well over ninety minutes of tedium that you probably won't want to bother suffering through left to deal with.
My Soul To Take looks pretty good in this AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen transfer, though it should be noted that this is not at all a colorful film and the transfer replicates that accordingly. Expect lots of grey and brown and dark blue and black used throughout the movie, as if to give it an appropriate sense of decay. It works to an extent, though the story doesn't keep the pace. Black levels are generally pretty strong and quite deep and when edge enhancement pops up its always very minor and easy to look past. Detail is generally good, though some shots look considerably better than others, and texture is also well defined. There's really very little to complain about here, Universal has done a fine job transferring what was obviously some pristine source material and there are no glaring faults to point fingers at in this department.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix on this disc is a good one, creating a bit of atmosphere here and there and providing a lot of good channel separation throughout the movie, even if most of it is up front in the mix. Bass response isn't constantly enveloping but it's definitely strong enough to matter, you'll notice this during the ambulance crash scene in the beginning and when gun shots are fired later in the picture. Dialogue is generally quite well balanced and easy enough to follow without any problems and if the rears aren't used as frequently as they could have been they do provide some welcome ambient and background noise. Alternate language standard definition DTS 5.1 tracks are provided in French and Spanish while subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish.
Stars Max Thieriot, John Magaro and Emily Meade are joined by director Wes Craven for a rather uninspired and at times fairly dull discussion about the making of the film. As interesting and insightful as Craven can be at times, here he's rather quiet and seemingly unenthused by the discussion, which is never a good sign when you're the director. At any rate, they cover cast and character development and script revisions and who did what but they don't do it with much excitement or spirit which makes this track a chore even when they are talking about interesting subjects (which happens periodically).
Five deleted scenes, totaling about twenty-two minutes in combined length, are included in high definition but were obviously cut out for pacing reasons - why drag down an already bloated film even further? They really wouldn't have added much to the story at all, there are no major reveals here but for those who want more, here you go. Likewise, there's an alternate opening sequence and two alternate endings, the three segments running about six minutes in length. Again, none of these would have really altered the film enough to make it more interesting or worthwhile.
Aside from that, there's some Blu-ray Live connectivity that allows you to access an online news scroll and some trailers, and a few trailers and promo spots for other Universal titles play before you get to the animated main menu, which provides chapter stop selection and set up options.
Universal's Blu-ray release is fine, benefitting from a decent transfer and a very impressive audio track, complimented by a couple of minor extras and a director's commentary. Unfortunately the movie itself stinks to high heaven and no amount of technical gloss or lossless audio action can change that. Craven completists or those with affection for bad teen horror can check it out at their own discretion but anyone else can safely live without this one. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.