With Scream 4 lurking, knife in hand, around the corner Wes Craven has a lot riding on his return to Woodsboro.
In the ten years since the first Scream trilogy petered out in a mess of self reference and bloodless gorethrashing the world of horror has felt the force of torture, zombies, low-budget shockers and a confused resurgence of exploitation flicks. My Soul to Take is a tawdry, fright free dirge; it is a mess of conventions and superficial shocks that somehow came from the same creative mind of a man whose nightmares became icons of the 80s and 90s. I have no idea how this happened.
Beginning with a brutal murder of a pregnant woman by her schizophrenic and seemingly invincible husband, we are left with a newborn baby and his older sister who witnessed the attack. It’s a nasty beginning and the not-really-dead crazed murderer disappearing after chewing to pieces the ambulance crew carrying his body away from the crime scene we are thrust seventeen years forward. It’s a sleepy start with the boogieman of the picture, named ‘Ripper’ (seriously) no more terrifying than a thousand direct-to-DVD loonies and when we meet the gaggle of pretty young things who taunt each other about the legend it’s time to get out the cliche list and lie lazily back while the torpid drag of the film plays out.
School cliques, jocks and geeks, dozy parents, a town with a spooky legend celebrated annually by boozing teens, blind chases through empty school halls, multiple guttings in the woods, the closing of bathroom mirrors, jump scares and a twist ending so obvious you expect the cast to come on screen at the end with a synchronised wink. There is no invention, no terror, nothing to engage the audience and no reward for anyone sticking with it until the credits roll.
The alternate endings included on the DVD are out of tone with the rest of the film and no more than a strange curio while the deleted and extended scenes are the real horror contained herein.
Wes Craven is capable of so much more, we’ve seen it again and again. By playing so close to the horror conventions he helped create, then parody, we’re back to the beginning in a world when Ti West and Adam Green are taking the influences of the past masters and creating new nightmares and we’re a long way from Craven’s New Nightmare and the invention and introspection which helped shape the new wave of horror. We have to hope that Scream 4 is some sort of return to form as this film is a shadow of the work Craven is capable of. If you see this film coming, run the other way and don’t look back.