The Austin Chronicle

My Soul To Take

Rated R, 107 min. Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Paulina Olszynski, Raúl Esparza, Jeremy Chu, Emily Meade, Shareeka Epps, Dennis Boutsikaris.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 15, 2010

Craven hasn't directed a feature since 2005's garrote-taut little comeback thriller Red Eye. While those of us who recall the psychological heft and bad-dream imagery of classic Craven – The Serpent and the Rainbow, the first Scream, the original The Hills Have Eyes – fervently wish the man would figure out where he misplaced his nail-biting narrative mojo, it's nowhere in evidence here. My Soul To Take kicks off with a relatively decent premise. On the very night a seven-personality schizoid serial killer, dubbed the Riverton Ripper (Esparza), attempts to slaughter his own family, a septet of newborns enter the world (Craven plays around with the numerologically loaded digit a lot, to little effect). Flash forward 16 years and the seven potentially deadly sons and daughters of that accursed night are suddenly suspect as a new wave of Ripper-esque bloodlettings commence. Elements of Craven's leaner, meaner days are rampant: the Elm Street-like teen coterie forced by fate, or worse, to band together in an unlikely alliance of misfits (Thieriot's aptly nicknamed Bug, a condor-fixated loner, is immediately tagged as prime suspect No. 1), high school Heathers wannabes, and a requisite gothling (Meade). There are other characters here, but frankly, I keep getting them mixed up with the kids from the Nightmare pictures, Scream and its sequels, and Call Northside 777. What stings the most is that Craven is so blatantly, enervatingly going through the motions here, showing none of his long-ago command of Jungian psychological overtones, realistic teen banter, and pop cultural mores, or even any honest-to-goodness shocks or jarring narrative reversals of fortune. This utterly mediocre forget-me-now could've been crafted by any faceless serial director at all. The shame of it is that the man behind the camera is Wes Craven when, by all rights, it should have been Alan Smithee.

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