Understandably not screened for critics before its Friday release, "My Soul to Take" represents a particular disappointment because it represents the first writing-directing effort from Wes Craven since his fiendishly clever "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" in 1994.
Unfortunately, the director of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Scream" and other horror classics comes a cropper with this dull, talk-heavy snoozer that most closely resembles something that would show up on the CW network. Even more egregious is the converted 3-D presentation of the Universal release, forcing moviegoers to cough up extra bucks for effects that are barely noticeable — other than, of course, the inevitable increased dimness.
After a fairly slam-bang opening sequence introducing serial killer the Riverton Ripper, who is promptly dispatched (seemingly) after attempting to murder his family, the film fast-forwards 16 years. We are then introduced to the Riverton Seven, a septet of local teens who were born on the day the Ripper died, with one of them possibly harboring his murderous soul. Their number soon dwindles as each proceeds to suffer a gruesome death at the hands of a faceless killer, with the most obvious suspect being Bug (Max Thieriot), a rather disturbed youth who has a strange obsession with the vulturelike California condors.
Unfortunately, neither the Riverton Ripper nor his faceless successor is likely to compete with Freddy Krueger in iconic horror-movie villain terms, and the overall proceedings lack the wit and style that marked the best of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" series.
Craven's trademark satirical humor sadly is in little evidence here, though he does try at times, most notably in an absurd sequence that riffs off the classic mirror routine performed by the Marx Brothers in "Duck Soup." The film becomes particularly leaden as it lurches endlessly toward its conclusion, with the action, such as it is, giving way to endlessly confusing exposition that had the audience stirring restlessly.
The generic teen characters are dully played by the youthful ensemble, though the wild-eyed Thieriot does try his best to create a memorably weird figure.
At one point in the film, Craven makes a classic mistake, showing a clip of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." It only serves to remind us that our money would have been better spent renting horror classics on DVD.