So once again we have survived.

My Soul To Take

tn_mysoultotakeI don’t know if “good” is an adjective I would apply to Wes Craven’s little-seen latest horror movie (his first writing/directing joint since NEW NIGHTMARE). Other than the synonyms for “strange” there aren’t many adjectives that really do the job here. So it’s hard to explain what this movie is like, exactly, but I’ll try.

MY SOUL TO TAKE looks like a pretty typical glossy teen horror movie, with characters that could be in FREDDY VS. JASON or a FINAL DESTINATION, plus your standard Marco Beltrami score infused with an occasional rock song. Although it’s not a remake, a sequel, a prequel or a prequmake it does fit your modern mainstream horror mold by being released in last-minute-post-production-3D (LMPP3).

Yeah, it looks normal from a distance, but when you get up close it’s clear that something’s off here. Most movies that look like this follow a fairly simple formula. In the first half hour or less you figure out generally where the story is going and it either plays out elegantly or clumsily and that determines whether it works or not. But I rarely knew where the fuck MY SOUL TO TAKE was going, or what it was supposed to be about. The story is so convoluted and the combination of elements and incidents is so effortlessly odd that it just feels completely unhinged and keeps me off balance. It’s nowhere near the same level of quality, but it made me think a little bit of FEMME FATALE and RAISING CAIN in the way it crazily connects so many different types of stories, like mixing up the pieces of five different puzzles and forcing them to fit together.

mp_mysoultotakeActually, I got a better comparison. It’s like a calmer version of I KNOW WHO KILLED ME. Not as bonkers as that one, but weird enough that you’re not sure if it’s kind of clever or if it just has parts that work by accident. For example, the first present-day kill (which I noticed afterwards is spoiled on the disc menu, as well as in this review) happens at exactly the place in the movie and in exactly the manner that horror movies usually have a fake scare.

Hey, who is that menacing silhouette coming toward me on a foggy night? Oh shit, it’s the killer! He’s coming at me! (BOO!) What the– is that a mask? Oh, it’s my buddy playing a tasteless joke. (Ha ha ha, I got you.) You asshole, that’s not funny! etc.

So I’m watching this scene in MY SOUL TO TAKE ready for the unmasking, but it turns out it really is the real killer already. The kid just gets quickly stabbed and unceremoniously tossed off a bridge. Is that a fakeout fakeout? Or did they not expect that I would expect a fakeout? Is it knowingly confounding my expectations, or is it succeeding by doing everything wrong? I thought maybe Craven would settle that question on the commentary track, but he has a couple of these young actors with him, so it’s one of those “co-workers reminiscing about the good times they had” tracks. He doesn’t go into deconstructionist college professor mode like he sometimes can.

It helps that the few trailers I saw didn’t really explain what the movie was about, exactly. But I guess the movie itself doesn’t do a very clear job of that either. What I’m trying to say is that this review might ruin it for you, it was nice to go in having no clue what was about to unfold. (I’ve noticed I spend alot of time writing about why you guys shouldn’t be reading what I’m writing. Also, would you believe that I’m just now getting to the part where I try to describe the plot.)

We open 16 years ago. The people of Riverton, Massachusetts are presumably aglow in FORREST GUMP mania, enjoying the Winter Olympics live from Lillehammer, Norway, or having their minds blown by the instant classic debut albums of Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Notorious B.I.G. These things are not mentioned though. Instead a video of a recent serial killer attack is showing on the local news, where they can’t make out the killer’s face but have enhanced the footage to show that he used a knife that says “Vengeance” on it (this has no apparent meaning in the story, so it’s probly just a promo item from the Johnnie To movie). Meanwhile a lady is pregnant and a CGI baby hand imprint pushes out of her belly (I think it’s supposed to be cute, not creepy). The father is building a dollhouse, then starts flipping out between multiple personalities and realizes that one of his personalities is the owner of that famous knife. Before you know it there are gunfights, near death experiences, a rash of premature births, distorted Freddy Krueger type voices, an exploding ambulance and a paramedic explaining that perhaps each of the killer’s multiple personalities is a separate soul.

Then we skip to the present, when the seven teenage preemies (now known as the Riverton Seven) and their school chums are at the site of the candle-decorated charred ambulance wreckage to celebrate their sweet sixteens by having a jock guy make a big speech about the urban legend of the Riverton Ripper before they perform a ritual where one of them leads a giant puppet into the river to scare away the ghost. The guy who has to do it is named Bug (Max Thieriot). He is the protagonist of the movie and is scared of the puppet. Also he has a best friend named Dunkelman (John Magaro), a nerdy guy who teaches him how to be a man.

Bug is supposed to be very troubled. There are hints about his mysterious hidden past, his migraines, even claims that he has murdered people before (claims he questions as if open to the possibility). For most of the movie he wears a t-shirt depicting the life cycle of frogs. And he stays up past 2 am listening to a talk radio show about birds called “The Birding Hour,” building a giant California condor puppet that represents some kind of mythological such-and-such about the transference of souls, and also pukes and shits on a bully in class.

At some point we unexpectedly shift into a stylized high school world like HEATHERS or MEAN GIRLS. The popular girls bribe the bully to punch people they don’t like, using numbered ratings to describe how hard. They also have a closed-door daily restroom debriefing called “The Fang Zone,” which the boys know about enough to spy on it by balancing a cell phone on top of a pipe. I must’ve missed when they mentioned that the bitchy chainsmoking “Fang” is Bug’s sister. Back at home Fang reveals Bug’s secret backstory through narrated childhood flashback while beating him to a bloody pulp and calling him a “maggot.”

I guess if I’m gonna describe everything weird about the movie we’re gonna be here for a week, so let me just skip to the highlight reel. There’s the scene where Bug and Dunkelman suddenly play the mirror game like in an acting class while scary horror music plays. There are the many off-putting cuts, like the one that goes from comical boy-and-girl-screaming-when-they-see-each-other-in-the-bathroom to police car arriving at murder scene. There’s the awkward expositional dialogue that never turns out to be relevant, like when the principal forces “I’ve been a principal here for six months” inappropriately into a conversation. There’s the part where Bug confronts Dunkelman about whether or not he’s a killer. He admits that he is, but not the killer – he coincidentally has just come from off-screen murdering his abusive stepfather. (What is this, MYSTIC RIVER?)

And I don’t know why, but there seems to be some sort of nut motif:

1. Fang threatens Bug with a pair of scissors, screaming “Watch your nuts, little squirrel!”

2. Several shots prominently display Bug’s poster that shows a squirrel and says “Protect Your Nuts.”

3. He has a big bowl of nuts sitting on a table in his room.

This doesn’t have to do with nuts, but it’s weird: the end credits have a crudely animated California condor flying around, sometimes wearing clothes.

The working title for the movie was 25/8. I read many times that it was about these seven kids who were born on the day when a serial killer died, August 25th. On the DVD Craven says that actually it meant that to fight evil you gotta work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, but they had to change it because people kept thinking it was a date. Huh.

So I didn’t really catch on until the last stretch, but the hook of the movie is this: the Riverton Ripper is killing again, either through one of his seven souls that were transferred into the bodies of 7 kids born on the day that he died, OR also it is possible that he didn’t die and is still alive living in the woods, and the kids don’t have his souls at all, they just were born on the day when he was mistakenly thought to have died, and I guess in that scenario he would be trying to kill them because of that. Catchy, huh? I can’t really figure out why this didn’t catch on.

Okay, I changed my mind, I know for sure that “good” is not the right adjective for this movie. But whatever you want to call it I gotta admit I enjoyed being confused by it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 at 12:56 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

47 Responses to “My Soul To Take”

  1. mom, my nuts?

  2. one guy from andromeda

    February 9th, 2011 at 3:36 am

    sounds like fun actually. now, are the 16 year olds 16 year olds or 26 year olds playing 16 year olds in this one?

  3. Okay, now I actually want to see this. It sounds amazing.

  4. This review made the movie look a lot more interesting than the preview did. Although, I’m not sure that was Vern’s intention.

  5. I actually think that girl turning out to be Bug’s sister was supposed to be an unexpected twist. For some reason. I dunno. I’m not going to lie, I kinda loved this ridiculous movie.

  6. I was listening to Dread Central discuss this movie and they kind of had me at “blind guy somehow finds a rope, climbs into somebodies upstairs room, figures out where closet is and hides, and then explains the movie without showing any of it”

  7. Yeah, there’s alot of people-explaining-shit in this movie, including “why I am in your closet.” That’s part of its unique vibe.

  8. Sounds weird.

    Trivia: Dunkelmann means Darkman in german.

  9. Yeah, I do think you need to cut back on the spoilerising, Vern. Especially for new movies. Especiallier for new movies that aren’t even out overseas for months.
    Also, I’m assuming you were quoting from the movie, but how can the Riverton Ripper be an Urban Legend if he was reported on the news as fact, and so were his victims?[/nitpick mode]

  10. I know his track record isn’t perfect (Deadly Friend, Hills Have Eyes II) but I generally like Wes Craven originals. People Under the Stairs is my favorite. I knew something was up with this when it took years to come out. It’s not just the 3-D conversion, it was done for a while before 3-D was the craze. I’m sure it’s a mess but it’s one I’ll probably watch anyone to be thorough.

  11. People Under the Stairs is a very underrated horror movie

    the popular opinion is that pre-Scream era 90’s was barren for good horror movies, but there are plenty of overlooked gems

  12. Vern! You enjoyed this? I love me some mind-fucks, but this movie had no idea what it was trying to do. I love ya, man, but I totally disagree with you, here. If you don’t mind, you could read my take on it over here: http://badmovievirus.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/my-time-to-take-up-my-soul-to-take/

  13. Well Nix, it sounds like we saw the same movie, it’s just that all the strangeness and lack of sense-making made it entertaining for me. I’m sure it helps that I saw it on DVD after months of bad reviews, you saw it on the big screen when there was still hope that it could be great. So our hopes and expectations were different.

  14. I don’t know if I can trust Nix on this one because he said the 3D worked when nobody else on the internet were even close to saying that the 3D worked at all in the movie.

  15. Stern, the post-conversion 3-D was pointless and nearly non-existent. But it’s the only thing they did right.

  16. Oh, but thanks for reading, Stern. That movie pissed me off. At first, I was really excited. Then, the audience started laughing and I got mad. Then, I started to realize why they were laughing. It was terrible from start to finish.

  17. Saw this at the drive-in with torture porn cash-in CHAIN LETTER. Brought back fond memories of my wasted youth.

  18. I forgot to mention that I enjoyed Craven’s Red Eye when I saw it in theaters (and I was the only there)

  19. Griff: Yes, the “one” makes it sound less depressing. “The only there” sounds existential, and deeply lonely.

  20. Your welcome Nix. As a favor for listening, can you get rid of that creepy avatar. Holy shit that’s creepy.

  21. Like a lot of horror and action movies, this one perpetuates the old racist trope of the black guy valiantly sacrificing his own life to save the hero. Although in this case, the way he saves him is by knocking over crap with his walking stick thus distracting the killer.
    Also in terms of killing order are asians the new blacks?

  22. billydeethrilliams

    February 10th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Speaking of strange, will you ever review a David Lynch film? (I’m too lazy to check.)

  23. billydee: If you’re a fan of Lynch, particularly MULHOLLAND DR and LOST HIGHWAY, I think you might prefer to not read Vern’s comments on them. He was pretty hostile to both films.

  24. jareth, where are these vern comments on MD and LH of which you speak? they are not listed in the reviews section (at least not alphabetically under MULHOLLAND DRIVE or LOST HIGHWAY). for the record, MD is one of my favorite movies of the last decade, and i would be interested to see what my favorite reviewer said about it, even if he disagrees with me. didn’t much care for LH, on the other hand…

  25. I knew I reviewed MULHOLLAND DOCTOR on the Ain’t It Cool News, turns out it wasn’t in the database, so I found it and reformatted it so it’s slightly more readable. I have to admit this is not a very good review. I did enjoy the movie for the most part but was stuck on not liking the way it ended. Let me explain the context I saw it in.

    Before it got turned into a movie some showoff loaned me a copy of the TV pilot, which was cool and introduced a bunch of mysteries that would’ve been explored throughout the series. Then later I saw the movie version, which was mostly the same thing and then at the end instead of addressing anything that had been brought up just left all of it hanging but added a bunch of mumbo jumbo onto the end including but not limited to some tiny people inside a box. I know that over the years people have studied the movie and discovered that it has all kinds of deep meaning and what not, but if you saw it the way I did you would also have a hard time seeing it as anything other than a TV pilot with some gibberish at the end because he didn’t think that far ahead to what was gonna happen.

    I would like to note that Naomi Watts was at the screening of the movie and was real purdy. But at the time she was the lady from TANK GIRL.

    If none of this excuses my review I have no choice but to invoke the spectre of 9-11. Our nerves were all shot, emotions running high, etc.

    http://outlawvern.com/2001/09/28/mulholland-dr-short-for-drive-not-doctor/

    p.s. but hey, I liked MY SOUL TO TAKE

  26. billydeethrilliams

    February 11th, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Well, I don’t worship Lynch or anything, I just think he’s decent. I enjoyed the few movies I’ve seen of his( Mulholland Dr., Lost Highway, Eraserhead), and I have Inland Empire but haven’t watched it yet. He’s interesting, that’s why I like him. But your review gave me an idea for a sitcom about a struggling comedian with a secret talent: he is a master of the culinary arts! And that’s how he stays neck deep in pussy. Also, uh, he lives in New York, um, gay best friend, no wait, gay black best friend, who is chubby. And his parents live in the apartment below him. Any more cliches?

  27. Vern: Lynch would be so pissed to learn that you saw the rare and illusive pilot version of MULHOLLAND DR. For a while he was on some sort of crusade to have every copy banished into that ominous mirror thing that Superman threw his enemies into in SUPERMAN 2.

  28. BillyDee, how about his friend is a talking pie?

  29. “Riverton, Massachusetts”? And they didn’t film it here? Goddamn it. Must’ve been one of the shows we lost to Louisiana or Michigan or something because of the Tax Break scare.

    I just checked the script–they don’t really specify a location for the town. Probably only set it in Mass. in the first place because the producers said they had to shoot there to save money and then they never bothered changing it.

    And the finished film sounds pretty lame.

  30. Wabalicious Monkeynuts

    February 12th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I haven’t seen this one yet, but i saw one of the many versions of Cursed, i think it was the last Craven film i saw (actually i did see Red Eye too). It was fucking awful. The weredog signaled the bottom of the barrel being scraped for all it was worth.

  31. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the original version of Cursed one day? I guess they’d never bother to pay off the actors they replaced. It’s not Schraeder’s Exorcist prequel. But could you imagine the movie that even Weinstein couldn’t recut to satisfaction, they had to remake it?

  32. I normally recommend going into movies blind, but I think that if someone (like Vern!) lets you know that this movie is weird and confusing in advance (as opposed to being a standard teen thriller) you’ll be better prepared to enjoy it.

  33. Just saw this one. I liked the hell out of it.

    I can’t get over how badly they botched the advertising campaign for this one. I mean, it’s such a weird, crazy movie. Curiosity alone could have put at least a few asses in seats, I think. Instead, the trailers made it look like just another bland, cookie-cutter slasher picture, and it just slipped under everybody’s radar.

    I’m putting this in the same category as Hell High: Great, weird little movies that fell victim to a case of mistaken identity.

  34. Holy crap, this movie is a classic. It’s at least up there with The Room in terms of WTF quotient. The jump-scares are terrible (i thought the opening and closing of mirrored bathroom medicine cabinets was passe’ like 15 years ago), the CGI blood, especially in the pool scene, is hilariously cheap-looking and awful. The plot is simultaneously old-hat (at the end of the day it’s just another Scream whodunit clone with vaguely supernatural elements) but also convoluted beyond belief.

    But I loved it – there are SO MANY classic bits – the confusing opening that makes you feel like you walked into the movie 10 minutes late, the Condor puppet scene in class, the human mirror gag, the scene where the sister kicks and punches the brother and the sound effects team dub in ridiculously loud, bone-breaking effects. Also the weird high-school comedy parts with matching music and slow-mo shots of girls walking, and the killer who basically looks like a Rob Zombie costume and goes “Raarrr!” like a fucking pirate every time he moves. And the dialogue! It really reminded me of Primer or Syriana, or those movies where people talk about stuff in vague terms and you just nod your head and pretend to understand where you really don’t understand it at all. Oh and the weird cutesy cartoon credits at the end, followed by storyboards from the movie including scenes NOT IN THE MOVIE.

    It’s truly insane, and I questioned Wes Craven’s sanity and competence throughout – but I would watch this movie over Scream 4 again in a minute.

  35. The Original... Paul

    June 11th, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Ok SPOILERS ABOUND. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t read this post. Seriously. Don’t. Also, I spoil the ending of “Sorority Row” the remake, although if you honestly don’t see the killer coming in that one, you’ve probably never seen a horror-whodunnit movie, ever.

    *

    *

    Well I said I’d been on a bad slasher movie binge recently, and since this is the only one of them that Vern’s reviewed, I might as well add my two cents.

    Long and short: I agree with Vern on many points regarding its charm (the condor-puppet scene in particular was freaking fantastic). BUT I take issue with it as a whodunnit.

    See, I worked everything out – and I do mean everything – not long before it was revealed. The structure of the brother-sister reveal was a little odd – why did they wait so long? – but as soon as it was revealed, I pretty much worked out straight away that 1) Bug’s mother wasn’t actually his mother (it was plain that one brother-sister pairing had to be adopted since we knew their parents – the killer and his wife – had died, and since the sister never referred to her mother as “mom” it was pretty clear who it was) and 2) that Bug’s sister had to be the girl we see getting posessed when she’s a small child at the beginning (and who is conveniently never heard from again).

    So… at the point the sister was revealed AS Bug’s sister, I was looking for a brother-sister pairing, the younger brother being one of the “seven”, the older sister being the little possessed girl, presumably in the care of an adopted parent or two. And although I didn’t understand why the relationship between brother and sister was revealed so late, I reckoned I had the killer bang-to-rights. The surviving members of the seven would be the red herrings; while the actual killer, the sister, would be revealed at the end, and the mother would be revealed as an adoptive parent for an additional twist.

    And then they revealed the core of the mystery – the family relationship between Max, his sister and the serial killer – two-thirds of the way through the movie? Thereby instantly invalidating the sister as a suspect? What the FUCK?

    Well, at that point, it had to be Dunk, unless you bought for a second that it was actually Max (I didn’t); and of course it was Dunk. The only real clues I could think of that pointed to him was the fact that at the very beginning of the film he’d been shown coming in through a window, wet, right after the first guy was killed off. Oh, and when Max leaves him behind before heading off after the blonde shortly before she’s killed, putting him on the spot I guess. So they do establish him as being “on the spot” with regards to the early deaths.

    Still… I don’t get it. You have a perfect setup of red-herrings with a great surprise killer in the sister, but then you reveal all the very nicely-planted clues pointing to her two-thirds of the way through, say “Yay, you were right about EVERYTHING regarding the identity of the little possessed girl at the beginning, except she wasn’t the killer after all”, and have the murderer be the too-obvious guy who has nothing whatsoever to do with all the really well-placed subtle clues pointing at Max’s dysfunctional family? Seriously?

    Now it’s a good thing that this movie is clearly way too batshit bonkers to be taken seriously as a whodunnit. Because if it wasn’t, this is the point that I’d be calling “shenanigans”.

    Dammit, I’m actually kinda annoyed about that. You don’t set up a “secret in the family” mystery as well as this movie does, then pull a switch in the third act and change the killer to the obvious ineffectual white guy (because it’s ALWAYS the obvious ineffectual white guy!) Leaving way too many unanswered questions by the way – for example, what happened to the girl in the opening scenes? When we last saw her she was clearly possessed by the whatever-it-is that they never explain (I actually really like that they don’t explain it by the way). Did it just let her go? And are you telling me that her iron-fisted leadership of the mean girls “clique” had nothing to do with demonic possession at all? How lame is that?

    Damn me, this is as disappointing as when “Sorority Row” turned out to have exactly no murderous sorority girls in it (yeah, it was the obvious ineffective white guy. How’d you guess?)

    In short – liked the film in general just for its bizarreness, hated the reveal. But I do like the implication that nobody knows exactly what the supernatural killer is, and that it might very well be coming back again (probably in the headmaster’s pregnant daughter’s kid. What happened to HER, by the way? We never see her after she’s been menaced by the swimming pool, yet there’s no indication that she’s dead?)

  36. The Original... Paul

    June 12th, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Oh, and since I could go on for hours like this… I will.

    Next question: what the hell happened to the original killer? They go on and on about how his body was never found, yet it’s absolutely confirmed that he’s dead… so what happened? Did he get out of that “lake” (lake gets some serious sarcasm quotes there because it looked more like a large pond) and then die somewhere else? Did somebody remove his body? Did they decide to NOT drag the water for some reason? What the fuck?

    And was anybody else kinda baffled by the sudden casual revelation that Max could not only absorb his friends’ souls, but they could also SPEAK to him? And wonder what the hell happened when the killer died, because presumably he’d absorb that soul as well? Seriously, talk about game-changing twists thrown out casually as though they meant nothing.

  37. Paul – I can’t answer your questions because I don’t remember many details of the story. But I’m honestly glad you saw it and are writing about it because I think this is an insane movie that I wish more people would take a look at. I don’t know what the fuck happened to Craven with this one, but it’s interesting.

  38. I enjoyed the hell out of MY SOUL TO TAKE. It was like it became a different movie every 15 minutes, none of which made sense on their own terms, let alone in connection with the others. But at least it wasn’t predictable. Shit, even the people who made had no idea where it was going. It reminded me of MOTHER OF TEARS, another borderline incompetent but fascinating and hilarious narrative grab-bag from an erstwhile horror legend.

  39. The Original... Paul

    June 12th, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Vern – I agree, it’s a movie that definitely deserves an audience. If I hadn’t known it was Craven, I would honestly have never guessed he’d be responsible for it (and that comes from the world’s biggest fan of the “Scream” series. Well, except #3, which kinda sucked.) I’m just frustrated that it went the more conventional route at the end, especially given that the central “mystery” turned out to be a huge red herring. I don’t know why they did that, it would’ve been a much more satisfying ending if the killer had turned out to be the little possessed girl from the beginning IMO.

    But I did love the bit where the guy-who-would-be-the-killer dresses up in a giant condor suit in class, and then vomits and shits on the school bully while the teacher just stands there wondering what the hell he should do about this. That made me laugh quite a bit.

  40. Ok so I revisited this one to honor Mr. Craven and am shocked to say I unironically liked alot of things about it this time. Sure it’s still ridiculous and muddled and the opening 10 minutes are a mess and this has the only not-good Frank Grillo performance I’ve seen (didn’t even know he was in it last time). But it really does have a unique, stream-of-consciousness vibe and again, this is a much more entertaining, watchable film than Scream 4.

    Some SPOILERY notes from the rewatch: I like the refrains/callbacks to stuff earlier in the movie that I didn’t catch last time (probably too busy shaking my head wondering wtf am i watching??). I like how the hero tells Fang he’s going to give the killer a “10”. I like how the running gag about the nerds getting beat up and always saying “thank you! That felt great! Please sir may I have another?!” etc… pays off at the end when the possessed killer gets stabbed and he legitimately thanks his buddy for stabbing him and tells him it feels great. It’s sort of sweet.

    Also I noticed that at EXACTLY the one hour mark (of this 1:47 movie) the entire rest of the movie takes place inside the hero’s house. It’s like they ran out of sets or shooting permits, and it’s hilarious to see the lengths the movie goes to stay in this one location. The killer climbs up an unseen rope into the window, asks the hero for some water, plants a knife in the sink, slips out the window, comes back in through the ground floor and kills some people. However, earlier a blind kid somehow came to the house, finds the rope, somehow climbs not into the bedroom but “on the roof” (his words), maybe gets stabbed at some point, but then climbs back into the bedroom and hides in the closet until he knocks something over, gets stabbed (again?), and delivers like 2 minutes of exposition before he dies. The killer (who had climbed down the same rope) goes to bury his costume with the hero’s giant condor costume then climbs BACK up the same rope into the same window and Craven films yet another interrogation scene exactly like the one we just saw 20 minutes ago. I’m not even mentioning the fact that most of this (and an entirely separate murder) take place offscreen. It’s a stunningly bizarre climax to a movie and I wish there were more movies like this.

  41. SPOILER: Oh also I like how the killer’s plan revolves around pinning all the murders on the blind kid, because “nobody would see it coming!”. Other than being a Scream-style meta-joke about how the harmless disabled guy may not really be harmless or disabled, this plan is kinda flawed since, I’m sure friends, family, medical records, etc… would confirm that the kid was actually blind and may not have been able to slit throats and drag bodies all over town. Then again this is a blind kid who decides to go to his friend’s house and climb up a random rope and chill in the closet so who knows.

  42. Inspired by Vern and the comments, I decided to go ahead and rent this yesterday. My first reaction: wow, this is a laughably bad movie. An interesting failure. Vern is right that perhaps the biggest strength of the film is how it keeps throwing you off balance with random WTF/did that just happen? type moments. However, given other features of the film, I can’t help but think that this is an unintentional product of a bad script, limited budget, rushed editing, or some combination.

    The other feature of the film to which I refer include:
    1. the absolutely horrible, tone-deaf dialogue and relational dynamics among the characters. Not only is it exposition-heavy dialogue, but it somehow manages to be stilted, cliched, exposition-heavy, and just bizarre and unlike how people talk to one another in any possible world. Dialogue that reminds of that line in Royal Tennenbaums when the fake doctor says “Keep giving him the stomach cancer medicine.” Not even a hint or realism to these characters or the manner in which they interact.

    2. the caricature fundamentalist girl

    3. Bug (from Bates Motel) – just a terrible, clueless, “you should consider going out for the school play” performance. Eminem is a better actor than this guy, and that is saying something. I will grant that I think he is much improved in Bates Motel, so there’s hope.

    3. The tv show-grade production values, lighting, cinematography, sets, and cgi. Somehow, despite an ostensibly bigger budget and any number of technical advances, this film looks smaller and more artificial than any Elm Street film.

    4. Poorly developed mythology – It’s hard to follow the broader logic of Ripper or what happened when he died or what broader mythology undergirds it, other than an allusive, tangential reference to voodoo/hoodoo.

    5. Not scary. This film is just not scary. No sense of pacing, ratcheting up the suspense, reveal, etc.

    This was worth a watch, just as an at-times interesting failed experiment. It’s not good, and I’m not sure it rises to so-bad-it’s-good territory. Still, it’s hard to wonder what happened in Craven’s mind or in terms of studio or shooting compromises that resulted in a film that misses the mark in so many way, coming off like a hacky imitation of a Craven.

    I’m still down to celebrate Wes Craven’s amazing contributions to horror cinema, with Freddy and Nightmare being the crown jewel. He made some great films and some really bad films, and this is one of the latter.

  43. Sorry to hear that, Skani – my lady friend was similarly unimpressed with this the same way alot of my friends were underwhelmed by The Room. I guess there’s no way to hype up a “so bad it’s good” movie without overhyping it.

    But thanks for reminding me about the horrendous, possibly bad-on-purpose dialogue. When Bug tells Alex it’s ok he killed his stepdad, and Alex goes “No, it’s not ok for everybody to being killing each other all the time!” I almost spat out my drink.

    I haven’t seen Bates Motel but I hope Max Thieriot is playing yet another “is he or isn’t he?” killer like like this and House at the End of the Street. He actually looks alot like a junior version of WWE’s Dean Ambrose and amusingly has alot of the same “crazy” tics.

  44. See, this is the problem with “did he or didn’t he?” movies, especially when the protagonist is the “he” in question. I’m not buying that “he” did it unless we see the film specifically put him at the scene of every single goddamn crime and no character in the movie ever suspects him or points out that it might be him.

    (Now if the “he” is the protagonist’s boyfriend / husband, that’s a different story.)

    Similar to the modern Spielbergian thing of “I’m not buying the kid is dead until I see his/her charred, mutilated corpse.” It’s been a long, long time since JAWS, folks.

  45. Neal, ha, expectations are a mother. I may give this another shot later, and possibly I’ll come over to the dark (light?) side. :) Even now, I will say that I did enjoy some of the offbeat, oddball characters, and I couldn’t help but like Theirot in spite of his goofy performance.

    Also, it occurs to me just now that tonally this film reminds me a lot of Dead Silence or Nightmare 5 or Silent Hill. Not in any direct way as far as plot, but just the look and feel and tone. All of those films exist in these strange, waking-dream worlds, where the characters and the setting itself are vaguely un-real or hyper-real. Just, like the whole world of the film–the school, the surrounding community, the characters, and the way they interact is wrong, odd, just off. People don’t talk or interact like this. Things are strangely small, like there is no world outside Riverton. It’s like the viewer is the dreamer who is the only one who senses something wrong, meanwhile all the characters seem to be on board and bought into the illogic of this town and its characters and history. Only an outside observer can appreciate that this world just doesn’t make sense. It’s off.

    For instance, this seems like a really small town, but it’s got it’s own local radio station where people are reporting town gossip the next day, like TMZ. Also, this little hamlet apparently merits it’s own full-fledged trench-coat-wearing detective on the force. How many cases does he encounter? People whom we are told have no artistic skills manage to have fits of inspiration in the middle of the night during which they make giant, well-conceived bird costumes equipped with liquid-shooting tubes. Random jocks just walk up to girls and ask for blowjobs with complete credulity/zero sarcasm (okay, maybe that sometimes happens, but it’s such an odd scene). By default, schools apparently have direct access to detailed medical records about their students. Beautiful religious fundamentalists cheerfully spew rote “you’re all doomed”-grade apocalyptic rhetoric to their peers while still enjoying easygoing and even playful friendship with those same peers. Multiple characters pause in the midst of intense peril or agonizing death to utter surprisingly well-composed introspective speeches. Almost all of the dialogue and character beats seem jarring and off (see above post).

    I suppose it’s possible that Craven was deliberately trying to make this a kind of comical lucid dream world of unreality, but I don’t think he was. I don’t know if he gets that everything about this community and school is at least as weird and off-base as the idea of a dying killer putting chunks of his soul into one or more people born on that day. It seems like these other anomalies are just the byproducts of budget or shooting constraints or poor script development, rather than elements of a more general deliberate decision to create this unreal world that is Riverton. Instead, it seems like he is going for a straight-up scary, fairly conventional Craven-esqe supernaturaal killer thriller, and when you compare everything about this to, say, everything about Nightmare (dialogue, performances, charisma/nuance/realism of the characters, atmosphere, plot, build-up, tone, effects, scares, iconography/mythology-appeal), this one compares so unfavorably, that it’s kind of depressing. I don’t expect it to compete with Nightmare, but this isn’t even in Friday the 13th 3 or 4 territory as far as terror or horror.

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