Many horror fans consider My Soul to Take Wes Craven’s worst film ever (for me personally, that honor goes to the original Last House on the Left). I was quite engaged with My Soul to Take all the way through, mostly because it was one of the weirdest, most mind-boggling mainstream films I’ve seen in years. It’s like Craven watched Juno and Jennifer’s Body over and over again to try to make some sense of how teenagers speak today (meaning, how they speak only in movies written by Diablo Cody) and then filled his latest horror film with dialogue consisting exclusively of trippy talk.
The bizarre interaction between the characters in My Soul to Take is what makes it all feel so surreal, even though the general plot is pretty straightforward. When a serial killer named The Riverton Ripper dies, local townspeople believe that one of the seven children born that same night is going to essentially become possessed by The Riverton Ripper’s soul and kill off the remaining of the seven children.
Surprisingly, the film isn’t as much of a clone of A Nightmare on Elm Street as it sounds or as it was portrayed in the film’s trailer (I believe some of the most Elm Street-esque scenes from the trailer weren’t even in the actual movie!). There are definitely a few moments (especially one in a school boiler room) that imitate Craven’s earlier work, but the film also feels derivative of other films. There’s a clique of girls straight out of Jawbreaker, there are hints of Scream near the conclusion of the film, the jumping serial killer soul was done in Craven’s Shocker, the Riverton Ripper looks very much like Rob Zombie’s maskless Michael Myers in Halloween II, and there are parent-child relationships and tight, tense inside shots of the kids’ homes that remind me of Craven’s own Deadly Friend. Plus, the persona of the lead kid is very reminiscent of Jessie from the non-Craven Elm Street film Freddy’s Revenge. My Soul to Take has a very old school charm to it—there’s something noticeably 80s about its tone at times.
Despite the kids taking part in ridiculously odd rituals, a curious teenager girl who takes on the role of the crazy religious fanatic (who everyone should actually listen to), mostly absent and essentially useless adults, and a whole lot of plot points that don’t make sense, are never explained, or are explained in that indecipherable loco language, the film has a lot of scares and atmosphere. The first appearance of The Riverton Ripper has got to be the creepiest thing I’ve seen and heard since I ran in terror from this horrifying stalker in the video game Clock Tower 3:
If only the film had focused more on the Riverton Ripper chasing and slaughtering teens than the convoluted exposition through dialogue that still never manages to explain with any kind of logic a majority of the situations presented, this could have been a great, mindless slasher. Instead, we’re left with a film that tries to be clever and complex, but then winds down to an incredibly anti-climactic climax. It’s usually not a good sign when a horror film has to be tied up with a narrative by one of the main characters….