If you're not hopelessly confused within the first five minutes of Wes Craven's misguided and not-all-that-ambitious 'My Soul To Take,' then you aren't paying attention.
There's a whole lot of stuff going on, right from the beginning, which we learn very, very quickly – there's a gangly serial killer called the Riverton Ripper who murders his victims using a knife emblazoned, appropriately enough, with the word "vengeance." An unassuming husband finds the knife on his person and then, in short succession, is revealed to be the killer, murders his wife and a bunch of cops and is finally killed after the ambulance he's being driven in flips over several times in spectacular, thriller movie fashion.
Oh, and a bunch of kids (dubbed the "Riverton Seven") were prematurely born at the exact moment that the psycho killer shuffled off this moral coil.
We skip ahead sixteen years, to see the kids who were born on the night the Ripper was taken down. They take part in an annual event/giant birthday party where one of them has to face down the ghost of the Riverton Ripper (or something). Our hero, for some reason, is Bug (Max Thierot), a squirrely member of the Riverton Seven who may or may not have multiple personalities. I say "may or may not know" because the mystery is a plot point, but also because the movie is so damn confusing that even after watching it, I'm not entirely sure what happened.
Soon enough, members of the Riverton Seven start getting sliced up in the same manner that the Ripper dispatched his victims. The tonal awkwardness reaches its apex in the film's second act, with its uneasy mixture of teenage bitchiness (Bug's sister, Fang, played by the adorable Emily Meade, is a queen bee-type high school empress) and rote slasher movie theatrics (even I squirmed when the God-fearing girl gets sliced up early on), before sliding back into psychological/supernatural mumbo jumbo in the finale, in which schizophrenia is replaced with lots of talk of "souls" jumping from body to body. Whatever level of emotional involvement that might be gained from this kind of scenario (wondering if you'll turn out like your parents, adolescent feelings of alienation and rejection) are blown to smithereens by the pomposity and impenetrability of Wes Craven's script.
What's even more disappointing is that this is Wes Craven's first film as a writer-director since 1994's 'New Nightmare,' a self-referential masterpiece that would predate the kind of goofy, whip smart horror stuff that Craven would define years later with the 'Scream' series, and his first feature directorial effort since 2005's slick little thriller 'Red Eye.' People may bemoan my endless championing of Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody's 'Jennifer's Body,' but when you hear faux fierce lines like "Wake up and smell the Starbucks," you will, like me, wish you had invested your time in another viewing of 'Jennifer's Body' instead of this tired, muddled mess.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'My Soul to Take' arrives on high-definition courtesy of a 50GB Blu-ray disc that is both BD-Live enabled and Region A locked. The film was retrofitted, after-the-fact, for 3D presentations. The Blu-ray disc isn't in 3D and I sincerely doubt there will ever be a separate 3D release of this awful film.
The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer (2.35:1 aspect ratio) is free of technical issues, but not exactly compelling either.
Part of 'My Soul to Take's' long, sad history involved multiple reshoots and an extended conversion to 3D. Sometimes, when looking at the muddy images or unfocused shot compositions, I tried to figure out when something went wrong – was this during a reshoot or the 3D conversion that things got gummed up. It may not be the right line of thinking, but it was sort of fun.
The palette is unusually subdued, with bright colors being few and far between (there are, of course, splashes of blood in this R-rated movie, but I can't decide if these moments popped because of the color or because of their unconvincing phoniness), with black levels not being nearly as dark and inky as they should be for a horror film, with noise and crush occasionally creeping in like the unwanted Riverton Ripper.
Skin tones for the most part look real, although some are exaggerated (a stylistic choice, I would imagine), and texture and detail stand out, particularly in a sequence where Bug's classmates are menaced by his friend wearing a condor costume (don't ask – the condor subplot is one of the stupider plot elements).
Mostly, though, this transfer is just drab. Again: I'm not sure who to blame, although there's a particularly iffy shot of a dead teenager hanging from a tree that looks like it was shot on somebody's cell phone camera five minutes before the movie came out. This transfer could be a great encapsulation of a director's visual intentions, or it could just be blah. Either way, it's pretty lousy, even without glitchy technical issues.
Faring somewhat better in the ooh-spooky department is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix. If there's any creepiness that you'll experience while watching 'My Soul To Take,' it'll probably be due to this mix.
Things are pretty active, with the sound field being used well. This is a movie where teenagers are stalked by a maniacal killer, so there's a lot of boo!-type moments throughout the film. There's an early murder on a bridge that is pretty vividly realized.
But the mix isn't just active in the scenes where kids are being viscerally gutted. Marco Beltrami's above-average score sounds wonderful, and the aforementioned condor-man classroom attack sounds great, with the bird's amped-up sound effects really booming through the sound field, and the wet splash of phony bird-fluids doing just the right amount of gross-out damage.
Additionally, dialogue sounds clear and crisp, although occasionally the overtly mythological dialogue got drowned out by the cacophony that surrounds it, and sometimes the ADR work (accomplished partially by the same guy that does the 'Scream' voice – thanks commentary track) does sound a little disconnected. But overall, dialogue is clear and well prioritized, layered into the sound field thoughtfully.
Additionally, there are French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 audio options and subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Despite a large portion of the back of the box touting "Blu-ray exclusives!," that amounts to little more than BD-Live connectivity that hasn't yielded any additional material, that stupid Pocket Blu App, and D-Box readiness. Woo.
Wes Craven's muddled (both visually and from a narrative standpoint) 'My Soul to Take' is absolutely abysmal, the work of a fine genre filmmaker who is absolutely spinning his wheels. (Compared to this, his mismanaged werewolf flick 'Cursed' looks like a Palm d'Or-worthy affair.) The Blu-ray, with its tepid collection of special features and only so-so audio/video quality, isn't going to shed any particular light on what went wrong. There were numerous reshoots and a tortured conversion to 3D, none of which are explored. Not that every movie needs to air its dirty laundry, but in this case, the dirty laundry was way more interesting than the film itself. 'My Soul to Take' isn't worth taking a look at. Skip it. You'll be glad you did.