From an early age, the slasher genre has held a special place in my heart and has been a major component in my love for film. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were being cuddled up with my mom or grandmother and getting to witness films like Friday The 13th and Candyman for the first time. As a kid you just feel rebellious and cool getting to watch these movies, but you don’t truly understand yet what you like about them.
The older I got, the more I began to understand why these films are so exciting. It’s the thrill of a chase scene, the unpredictability of who bites the bullet next, the iconic mask and characteristics of the killer. Whether it’s Jason or Leatherface; Candyman or Chucky; Ben Willis or Norman Bates. They all have legacies and icon status’ within not only their respective genre but film history in general. As much as I love all of these killers and their series, there’s one man in particular who’s crafted and created some of my favorite killers ever. That is the horror legend himself Wes Craven.
For most of us, Ghostface from Scream and Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street were two of the most memorable and enjoyable characters to watch on screen growing up. Not only were they incredibly entertaining and have two of the best final girls, but they’re also some of the best crafted slashers. It’s what Craven specialized in. He knew how to give us effective kills, great chase sequences and bring fun characters to life on screen. His gift and love for the genre was highly effective and present in every scene of these films. Which is why in 2010, a decade since he released his last slasher, I was so excited to see his newest original film My Soul To Take.
The premise itself was just so damn cool. Seven teenagers are stalked on their birthday which also coincides with the death of their town’s notorious serial killer “The Riverton Ripper”. The catch is that supposedly, The Ripper may be back in the form of one of these seven to wreak havoc and complete some unfinished business.
Now, this film was enticing to me for many reasons. First of all, in a time where the slasher genre was beginning to be completely taken over by remakes and B-horror movie plots, we were about to receive an original piece. A sort of back to basics slasher mystery from Wes Craven himself. Second, it was a solid cast of up and coming actors many of whom you would recognize today. Max Thieriot (Bates Motel), John Magaro (Umbrella Academy, Overlord), Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Emily Maede (Nerve) and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead, Black Panther) to name a few. And of course, it had an original and terrifyingly awesome looking killer. All the pieces seemed to be in place for this to be his next hit. But that’s not entirely how it played out.
My Soul To Take’s editing was chaotic and choppy for starters. It cut from one random chaos filled scene to the next too quick for us to even completely take in what we were witnessing. On top of that, its characters would appear and seem to have a purpose to the story only to be killed off five minutes later with CGI blood flying everywhere. I have to say, the CGI blood was the most disappointing because at this point, we expect decent slasher effects by the director of Scream and Nightmare. The shitty thing is, this film set up some character dynamics that may have been cliched (the popular girl has a secret crush on a weird and quirky character), but the chemistry between the actors made it fun! I was excited to see where it would go and how it would ultimately play out only for it to really go nowhere. Yikes. But this isn’t to say I don’t enjoy this film.
At the end of the day this is a fun little slasher with a cool killer, kind of great twist and a mean girl that should have had so much more screen time then she was given. I’m talking about Emily Maede’s character Fang. She is basically top of the popularity pyramid at school, students fear her but also want to be her, and although we have a pretty layered main character in self proclaimed weirdo Bug Hellerman, Fang is easily the most layered character who deserved a share of the spotlight in this film. Watching this, you’d expect her to be killed off early but nope, she becomes key in the third act and once all is said and done while the credits roll, you’re left sitting there wondering “why couldn’t she have been the main character?” It’s a shame because she could have been Craven’s newest epic final girl, even in a not so great movie.
This isn’t the first film I recommend when asked what to watch during October, but it is one that should pop up on slasher fans lists. My Soul To Take is one of Craven’s last films and it may not have been critically acclaimed like the rest of his filmography, but you can tell a fan and long time lover of the genre made this film; and that’s why I’ve got a lot of respect for it. It’s one that I personally have enjoyed on more than one account and will continue to do so for years to come. So yes! I do recommend My Soul To Take, and am openly and shamelessly a fan of this fun little gem of a movie.