Review: ‘My Soul to Keep’

An interesting start coupled with a clever history gets the ball rolling, but everything falls apart between trying to keep the audience guessing and actually making any kind of sense.

Sixteen years ago, a serial killer know as “the ripper” was killed. On that same night, seven children were born. Legend has it that the soul of the killer lived on, and the seven children born that night can keep it from returning with an annual ritual. This year, Bug (Max Thieriot) is chosen from among the seven to ceremoniously send the ripper back to the river for another year, but the gathering is broken up by the local police before its completion. Will the ripper return, or has he been waiting all along for this excuse to take his revenge?

Director Wes Craven again sets his sights on the metaphysical, this time on the concept of souls. Creating a self-sustaining mythology is his bread and butter, and the idea that multiple personalities might also imply multiple souls residing in a single person is ripe for a horror flick. The implication is that the main character could be the hero, the villain, or both while being blissfully unaware. Sadly, a limited time frame, murky histories, two-dimensional characters (in a 3D film!) and a few nuclear-refrigerator leaps in logic at the very end strain an interesting idea into an unsatisfying conclusion.

After the back story opening sequence, the film leaps ahead sixteen years to a gathering of seven teens who were all born on the same night that a serial killer called “the ripper” died. This starts the clock for a twenty-four hour “whodunit” as the seven are picked off to the tune of “the ripper’s gonna get you” while at the same time narrowing the list of potential murderers. The filler between these sequences are hints of some kind of high school hierarchy that paints everyone but the main character as cardboard cutouts (the faith girl, the ‘it’ girl, the jock, the blind guy, the abused kid, the superstitious guy.)

Later on, these “souls” appear to manifest as though being helpful or to illustrate how far over the edge the hero has gone. Earlier, however, the main character is shown quoting and imitating the others, making him appear already wrong in the head. If this was meant to show a connection, slanting it as a psychotic episode is at best confusing, especially since the characters being imitated aren’t dead yet. Was he always meant to collect the souls? Can he get power and knowledge from them? Are they merely part of a delusion?

By the time the answers are revealed, there’s too much misdirection and no longer enough possibilities remaining not to figure it out, but going back and trying to add it all up is frustrating at best. Craven borrows bits from his earlier works to periodically wink at his fan base, but the end result isn’t much better than Jennifer’s Body, and that’s not a compliment. With either too much or too little happening on screen and a script juggling too many red herrings at once, My Soul to Take feels like Purgatory… in 3D.

(a one skull recommendation out of four)

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