Wes Craven’s ‘My Soul to Take’ a 3-D mess

Posted Oct. 14, 2010, at 6:17 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

In theaters

MY SOUL TO TAKE, written and directed by Wes Craven, 106 minutes, rated R.

Wes Craven has a new movie out. It’s called “My Soul to Take,” which ironically isn’t the life story of Christine O’Donnell. Color me disappointed.

In spite of being a horror movie in which weird, laughable and ruinous things are said on-screen in spite of the reputations at stake, she’s nowhere in this baby, which leads to some obvious questions. You know, such as who put the voodoo in this hoodoo? Who put the pox on the box office?

I think we know who.

Anywitch, this risible horror movie is one of the worst to ooze out of cinemas in some time. “The Blob” has nothing on it. It’s about seven teens from a small town in Massachusetts who were born on the very night a serial killer died. And guess what happened then? Apparently, his soul was sucked into one of them at birth. Since I’d never heard of this phenomenon, it led me to Google, where I did an image search for “soul suck sociopath babies.” Who appeared on-screen when I first looked?

Tom Cruise, Sarah Palin, Donald Rumsfeld. Sandra Bullock, Dick Cheney, Naomi Campbell and Dexter.

You can go ahead and try it yourself, in hopes it will still be there. You’ll at least have a laugh and it won’t cost you the price of admission to this bomb, whose price is jacked into the stratosphere because the film is presented in that overrated spectacle that is 3-D.

At least it’s being sold as a 3-D movie. While watching the film, which was retrofitted for 3-D after it was shot, you’d hardly be aware that a third dimension existed. Given Craven’s questionable track record as of late, I went in hoping to see just one dimension. Never saw it. C’est la vie.

The movie is a mess — and a hot one at that. It’s sloppy. It’s poorly acted. The writing is incomprehensible trash. The lead character is Bug (Max Thieriot) — that’s right, Bug, as in squash — who has all sorts of nightmares that involve the deaths of six other people, including Jay (Jeremy Chu), Brandon (Nick Lashaway), Penelope (Zena Grey), Jerome (Denzel Whitaker), Alex (John Magaro) and Brittany (Pauline Olszynski).

Every one of them is a stereotype. None of them is interesting or likable. Most are annoying to the point that you hope that somebody soon will take more than their souls from them.

Fear not because Craven offers audiences The Ripper, a hairy beast who looks like he came out of “Battlefield Earth” — and who might be one of these kids in disguise. Isn’t that unique? Never saw that before. Anyway, when The Ripper goes on a maniacal killing spree, the characters are sandbagged with what no teen wants — a job. They have to find out who The Ripper is before all are murdered. And since that’s, like, really tough to do when you’ve got others things on your mind such as texting and stuff, you can just imagine the bloodletting that ensues.

On one level, you’ll be grateful for it. Grade: F

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

SPLICE, Directed by Vincenzo Natali, written by Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, 104 minutes, rated R.

Even if it ultimately fails, a far more interesting horror movie is “Splice,” which is about the perils of science, egos, bad childhoods and abuse, and how they culminate in a film that has a provocative beginning, but which soon shoots off the rails to pick up a few dust balls of disgust.

Be forewarned — after watching it, some might feel dirty upon leaving their television screens. And I’m pretty sure that’s the point. So, you know, good for the filmmakers!

Director Vincenzo Natali co-wrote the script with Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, and what they created is a movie that unnerves for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that its subject plunges into the hazy depths of genetic engineering, where cells and DNA are fused together in an effort to create all sorts of things that probably shouldn’t be, but suddenly are. And then what are we to do with them?

Throughout, parallels from James Whale’s 1931 film “Frankenstein” to David Cronenberg’s 1986 film “The Fly” to Roger Donaldson’s 1995 movie “Species” abound, but Natali goes a step farther in that he doesn’t make his leads at all likable, which might be an additional cautionary comment on all that occurs in his movie.

The film follows Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), who enjoy a working relationship as well as a romantic one. They are scientists at some vague laboratory that hopes to get rich by creating new, slimy creatures that possess the correct sort of proteins that will help cure all sorts of ills. Such as cancer. That sort of thing.

Sounds noble until you catch a glimpse of what they’ve kept secret from the public, and that would be the poor creatures apparently here to help save mankind. Secrecy is, in fact, part of what this movie is about. What goes on behind the locked doors of certain labs? As consumers, are we fully aware of the questionable choices some make in an effort to sustain life?

Presumably, we have government watchdogs for that, but does the general public really know how our prescription drugs are created? Maybe. Maybe not. What is true is that the scientists behind them know, and here’s the thing — what if key elements of those drugs came from the juices of some freak creature composed in a lab? Would you knock back a pill if you knew it came from some genetically engineered, breathing blob? Maybe. Maybe not. So, best to package that pill neatly and market it properly.

Trouble is, when ambitious Elsa decides to mix her own DNA with the DNA of any number of animals, we get something altogether different. At first, Elsa’s creation looks like a plucked capon with a humanlike head, three fingers and a barbed tail nobody wants to mess with.

Quickly, the creature grows, and as it does, its more human elements are emphasized. The conundrum rests there. The more human the creature appears, the more blurred the lines become about how Elsa and Clive choose to treat it.

At first, Clive is repelled by what Elsa created — he questions her ethics. But Elsa isn’t having any of it. Soon, she names the creature Dren, which is “Nerd” spelled backwards (how clever), and look, before you know it Dren is wearing a party dress and peeping like a bird in Elsa’s arms. Cue the mother-daughter issues. Hell, cue the human-interspecies issues, because when Dren grows up, she’s got legs up to here, kisses down to there, and in spite of her chicken hooves and magnificent wingspan, she’s kind of hot in a Sinead O’Connor kind of way.

What unfolds is all too much to fathom and bear, mostly because of the cruelty Dren endures when Elsa becomes the mother from hell and decides to mistreat Dren when Dren is caught having sex with Elsa’s man. Think that’s weird? Oh, the weirdness doesn’t stop there. There are all sorts of other crude twists the movie takes, the lot of which we’ll leave for the screen to reveal, but each step Natali takes down this cinematic rat hole of his leads him further away from what’s plausible to what’s just a bloody rush of science fiction.

In the end, “Splice” becomes a circus of the insane, and with nobody here to root for save for Dren, a confused thing whose biggest and most repellent surprise is revealed at the end, the movie crosses too many lines and morphs into something of a morbid curiosity. It’s not Dren’s fault that we’re pushed away from it, but we are, and in the face of that, this initially promising movie falters. Grade: C+

is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s film reviews appear Fridays in Lifestyle, and his video movie previews appear Wednesdays in the Lifestyle section of . He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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