Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.
If I should live to future days,
I pray Thee, Lord, to guide my ways.
There’s something very unsettling about this one particular evening prayer. It’s probably the fact that it’s aimed toward adolescents and hearing young children take supernatural precautions in the chance of their death is creepy. (Admittedly, it was a metal band that first introduced me to this ominous prayer — I heard it by listening to Megadeth’s under-appreciated classic “Go to Hell“; Metallica did the same thing in their song “Enter Sandman” a year later).
Now you’d think that if you combined the initial creepiness of this prayer with the macabre mind of director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes and Scream) you’d strike Hollywood gold, but that’s simply not the case with Craven’s latest and sloppiest to date: My Soul to Take. It ends up being a slasher film that sports more high school drama than a John Hughes flick, a complete lack of mindless drug-use and nudity, and less thrills than a late-night screening of Bambi.
But Craven obviously isn’t satisfied with just releasing trash like this, no, he has the audacity tape on an extra 3D gimmick which adds absolutely nothing to the overall viewing experience, and advertise the film as his “first 3D film” in a pathetic attempt at reclaiming his past glory. Three dimensions of suck indeed.
My Soul to Take opens with one of the characters reciting the aforementioned evening prayer and things fall apart from here. We next meet Able (Raàºl Esparza), an expecting father, who dons a terrifying secret (he is a sociopath, though his wife is absolutely oblivious to the fact). Even crazier, it turns out that one of Able’s alter-egos warns him that if he reaches out for help then his wife would die. Able, of course, calls his doctor, Mr. Blake (Harris Yullin), who quickly advises him to stay away from his family. He doesn’t listen and instead uses a knife, which has the word “Vengeance” written on the handle, to cut his wife’s intestines out. Not stopping there he tries to kill his daughter from behind, however, the authorities make it just in time and shoot Able, causing him to miss his daughter.
The cops assume he’s dead, but whataya know, Able is still breathing and he tells the officers that he’ll “get them all next time.” They dismiss him as a psychopath and call for proper medical attention. From there on out, this opening sequence derails into a series of dumbfounded murders, a car explosion, and the typical warning from an EMT to Detective Paterson (Frank Grillo), in which she tells him about the idea of having “multiple souls.”
That isn’t the end of the Riverton Ripper, as he’s been called, not by a long shot. At the time of his death, there were seven — count them, seven — premature births each containing a piece of Able’s soul. And now sixteen years later, these seven children just happen to be schoolmates, and every year on “Reaper Day,” they gather around the remains of the burned ambulance (God knows for what reason they decided to keep it around). They call themselves the “Riverton Seven,” and they tell stories in which Able’s soul is allowed to extract his revenge (by Lucifer himself no less) on the seven unlucky teenagers that contain a portion of his soul.
Comprising the Riverton Seven is a combination of exactly what’d you expect: Brandon (Nick Lashaway), a varsity douchebag who begs a fellow member of the seven, Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), to give him a blowjob; a cute red-headed Jesus freak named Penelope (Zena Gray); Jerome (Denzel Whitaker), who’s blind; Jay (Jeremy Chu), a random Asian kid; Alex (John Magaro), a boy who excels in subliminally manipulating people; and Bug (Max Thieriot), the “slow” one and thus a victim to Alex’s “talents.”
As you’ve probably guessed, Bug is the film’s protagonist — Brandon forces him to perform a stupid riverside ritual that involves “scaring and slaying” the Reaper as he comes back from the grave (it turns out that it’s just a puppet but it scares Bug shitless). Soon after the cops crash the celebrations, which leads to the funniest lines in the film, – “Police brutality? I’ll show you brutality!” This is where the real “fun” begins: Riverton Ripper isn’t quite as dead as you’d think and his first victim is Jay, who claimed that spitting in the river would stop the Ripper from killing him.
But who cares? Literally, all of the characters are severely underdeveloped. As the Riverton Seven drop like flies, I found it hard to even care. Bug is incredibly stupid, naïve and just plain uninteresting, Penelope is cute but well, she’s the second one to die, and Alex, is deplorable.
Craven, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, makes My Soul to Take absolutely incoherent. It seems like the script was written on the spot because there are a multitude of scenes that introduce a key plot element and never explain anything in further detail. Craven also deploys some sort of neurotic and ultimately confusing editing. On top of that, the Riverton Ripper is one of the most unintentionally hilarious antagonists of all time. He spouts lines like “Fuck your fucking unborn child. Now where’d I leave your bitch?” and uses amateurish “ooga-booga” scare tactics in some poor attempt to be creepy.
Even through its complex labyrinth of dead-end plot-twists, My Soul to Take is vastly predictable and ultimately, it’s a total unfrightening bore.