Credit Wes Craven where credit is due: My Soul to Take has an outstanding premise. Seven kids are born on the night a serial killer dies, each of them carrying a part of his soul. It gives them distinct personalities, the story an eerie backdrop, and deeper undertones than a psychopath who stabs people.
Sadly, the latter is all we get, a masked killer running around stabbing teens. All of the religious implications and random jargon is shoved into an utterly bizarre, confusing script that doesn’t have any identity. Soul switches its style more often than it kills people, at some point a parody of the high school genre, at another a stylish slasher, moving into disturbed teen territory, and then wildly swerving back into humor.
It’s not just the back-and-forth tone structure, but how it’s delivered. Mingling with serious dialogue are moments of intended comedy, or maybe even unintentional. We have characters with the names of Bug (Max Thieriot) and Fang (Emily Meade), a truly baffling school presentation involving a condor suit that vomits, and kids who have terrifying visions or change voices on the fly.
Soul pushes itself as a mystery, Bug at the center due to his mental instability. He sees dead people (really), talks to himself with multiple personalities, and exists as nothing more than a pawn to throw the audience off the real trail. He would be far too obvious anyway, which makes his underlying emotional turmoil and visions just an aside to the character.
Not many movies get off to the start Soul does, a serial killer’s mind on full display as he commits his final act of violence. There are explosions, gunshots, rescue squads flipped, stabbings, and multiple murders on a truly unbelievable level. The film opens with a finale, sort of important since the actual ending lacks the same satisfaction, and that’s with 90-minutes worth of character development. The opening has none, and it only proves what a thinly layered, failed concept this was.
Universal delivers an AVC encode for Wes Craven’s horror effort, a sufficient digital transition that seems transparent to the source. A mild layer of grain exists over the image at all times, a pleasing film-like effect completed without any moments of visible compression or noise. It’s perfectly natural.
Colors are desaturated giving flesh tones a washed out look. The school grounds and the forest are dominated by fall hues, mostly earth tones that are never meant to be striking. Even blood is relatively mundane by design. There are not many bright objects in the movie either, clothes seemingly chosen for their lack of color more than anything else.
Contrast can run hot in spots, a slight haze layered over the image in an apparent attempt to add tension or complete a vision. That’s acceptable, and the black levels reach that same level without ever deepening into superior territory. They sort of languish, matching the color palette’s muted design. Never are they terrible, just mundane, sapping the life out of a nighttime house chase late in the film.
Detail continues on that consistent path of ordinary, no outstanding qualities to note. Close-ups resolve and adequate layer of texture, and exteriors are impressive. A handful of scenes carry a slightly muddy, dead look to them, the girl poolside at 47:07 even a little digital. There’s a shot of the whole town at 19:54 that is especially murky too, a rare lapse for this otherwise consistent, if never striking, effort.
Voices enter the heads of our characters on a routine basis in Soul, and it’s no surprise the effect is complete with a smooth wrap-around effect. Chatter comes from all directions, the specific channel in use separated cleanly from the others. The accident that ends the action-oriented opening is pretty spectacular too, the vehicle hitting a ramp and kicking up into the air behind the viewer. The resulting thud when it lands is powerful and rich, as is the explosion that follows.
The rest of the film is straightforward material, including general ambiance in the forest and some crowded school hallways. Some waves at 59:20 split the stereo channels beautifully the way few designs would even care to. As the killer stalks the kids towards the end, some various sound effects are placed around the soundfield for effect, just as well placed as those voices in the beginning.
An alternate opening and two alternate endings are separated from the deleted scenes, the latter including five clips with 21-minutes to play with. Writer/Director Wes Craven joins cast members Max Thieriot, John Magaro, and Emily Meade for a commentary. Universal provides the usual round-up of BD-Live access and D-Box support.