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Rants and Raves: Dumb, Dull, and Deceptive

The 3D’s of Wes Craven’s ‘My Soul to Take’

Max Thieriot and director Wes Craven on the set of

Credit: Universal

Above: Max Thieriot and director Wes Craven on the set of "My Soul to Take."

Rogue/Universal did not preview "My Soul to Take" (opened October 8 throughout San Diego) so I went to see it over the weekend and boy did it piss me off.

First of all, I did not see (or notice) any trailers or ads promoting "My Soul to Take" as being in 3D but when I arrived to buy my tickets I was told the film was being presented in 3D and was I willing to cough up the extra bucks to see it. I was already there so I said yes.

Then I had to go to the theater way off in the back of the building – like finding the last platform at a train station -- where a teenage (okay maybe older) usher was sitting grimly at a table issuing fancy 3D glasses. He marked our tickets AND an official-looking log sheet and informed us that he would be coming into the theater at the end of the movie to collect our glasses. As if we were all planning to sneak out with them. He also warned us about leaving the theater to go use the bathroom. If we took our glasses with us he would hold them at the table while we used the facilities. Those must be some damn fancy 3D glasses for them to take this much care in issuing and collecting them.

So I settled in for the movie and the slew of 3D trailers. The first disappointment of the evening was how lame the 3D looked for the much-hyped "Tron: Legacy." It was promoted heavily at Comic-Con and a number of the people I know who saw the panel footage were impressed. However, what I saw in the trailer looked flat and bland. Plus the CGI "youthening" of Jeff Bridges was downright scary like a bad facelift. He looked as tightly stretched as Joan Rivers.

Trailer: 'Saw 3D'

Web movie: SAW 3D

Trailer for 'Saw 3D'

The only highlight of the multiple trailers was the one for "Saw 3D" (a.k.a. "Saw VII"), which brought back memories of those old William Castle horror trailers that made insane boasts. The "Saw" trailer showed torture devices wrapping over the shoulders of people in the audience and a giant hand reaching out of the screen to grab a viewer as Jigsaw's next victim. Saw blades also flew into the theater to support the tagline of, "The Traps Come Alive," with the added taunt that now it is your turn to suffer. At least this horror film has the right attitude: play up the cheese factor and go over the top. Little did I know that this two and half minute trailer would be the highlight of the whole night.

When the feature film finally began, the 3D was so non-existent that I had to keep on removing my glasses to check if I had been cheated and been sold 3D tickets to a 2D film. But the print was indeed a 3D print. It was just that nothing – and I mean absolutely NOTHING – looked even remotely 3D. Not even the titles had any dimension to them. This is the lamest of the many lame 3D films I've suffered through this year.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Universal

The Riverton Seven... can you guess what order they will be killed off?

But that's just a technical complaint. The film itself was such mindless drivel that my friends started texting each other in the theater -- and I didn't even care. The story has to do with a serial killer who's a family man suffering from a split personality. He flips out when he faces the killer inside him and attempts to murder his family, including his unborn son. But the fetus lives, the serial killing dad dies, and sixteen years later we have seven kids, all of whom were born on the day that the Riverton Ripper supposedly croaked. But suddenly the teens start dropping like flies and it looks like one of them may be the Riverton Ripper born again.

Whatever! Craven put as much work into this screenplay as my teenager puts into his homework -- and that means it was set it on cruise control.

Craven -- who delivered such low budget classics as the original "Last House on the Left" and "The Hills Have Eyes" – hasn't been able to scare anyone for years. And his jokey "Scream" franchise set serious horror back at least a decade. In "My Soul to Take" he does nothing to scare anyone or to help restore his horror creds. The gore is unimaginative and so is the plot that seems to require constant exposition. The best dialogue in the film – some funny and realistic comments from a teen girl made pregnant by the star quarterback – actually happen off screen and are just muffled lines used as padding. Too bad. It was the only time I actually believed what a character was saying.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Universal

The "mirror" scene. Craven overseeing the only moment when the film even remotely approached scary.

The only moment (and there was only one) where the film even hinted at creepiness, was when two characters suddenly started mimicking each other and mirroring each others' actions (like the mirror gag between Groucho and Harpo in "Duck Soup"). For a split second the film suggested a weird psychological horror. But if you blinked you would have missed the one good moment in the film. I will also be nice and say I appreciated a reference to my beloved Japanese kaiju "Mothra." But the reference occurs in a bizarre scene involving a giant puppet California Condor. The scavenger bird becomes something of an icon for the film and it has to be the weirdest horror icon ever. It's not particularly scary or cool. If the film had allowed itself to develop a more fully-fledged comic sensibility than maybe this could have proven effective. But the puppet condor gets one funny bodily fluids sequence and then just strikes us as silly.

"My Soul to Take" (rated R for strong bloody violence, and pervasive language including sexual references) has no real redeeming features. I felt like I had been scammed into paying the extra money for a 3D film in which the 3D failed to ever materialize. It's like buying a book that's advertised as a pop up book and then discovering that the pages have been merely embossed. But then maybe it's asking too much to have characters and a story as one dimensional as this to ever appear to have three dimensions. So in this case, the 3D's of Craven's film are: Dumb, Dull, and Deceptive.

The plethora of 3D trailers suggests that if 3D is indeed a fad it has not yet begun to fade. And that was the scariest thing about being in the theater that night.

Companion viewing: "Coraline" (for good use of 3D), "The Exorcist," "The Crow"

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