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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

My Soul to Take 3-D

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

Wes Craven, the horror auteur best known for unleashing Freddy Krueger in 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," is back at it with another, much less memorable bogeyman. There's little chance the slasher behind the mayhem in "My Soul to Take 3-D" (Universal) will enter the horror movie pantheon, let alone secure a place in pop culture lore.

Taking an 18th-century children's prayer as his jumping-off point, writer-director Craven offers a cheaply effective diversion. Unlike others working in the genre today, he doesn't rely on stomach-churning gore or sadistic torture to frighten audiences; he knows how to make viewers jump the old-fashioned way. That's probably the best that can be said about this picture, however, since there's enough bloody violence and other unsavory material to render it inappropriate.

In the hamlet of Riverton, Mass., someone begins stalking seven teenagers who were born the night a serial killer known as the Riverton Ripper supposedly died. Everyone in town is obsessed with this homegrown criminal, a husband and father named Abel Plenkov (Raul Esparza), who suffered from multiple personality disorder and even murdered his pregnant wife.

The day after a ritual bonfire commemorating Plenkov's spree, the targeted youths spend tense hours at school on their 16th birthdays. Is the Ripper still alive or did he find a way to endure inside someone else—by possessing their soul, perhaps? The most likely vessel is a tremulous kid nicknamed Bug (Max Thieriot) whose best friend, Alex (John Magaro), also came into the world on that fateful night. The two are bullied by the cool clique, which happens to include two peers—the "jock" and the "pretty girl"—who share their birthday.

No matter how much Craven tries to ornament the action with talk of soul-eating and bad seeds versus good seeds, it boils down to people confined to a house trying to avoid being butchered. He goes out of his way to mock religious faith, in particular any ability it may have to shield believers from harm. Penelope (Zena Grey), one of the seven marked teens, is a fanatical Christian who believes in the power of prayer. Needless to say, her 16th birthday is her last.

"My Soul to Take" isn't boring, but it's far from original or, pardon the bad pun, cutting-edge. There is absolutely no justification for exhibiting it in 3-D and asking moviegoers to spend extra for virtually nonexistent visual effects.

Craven knows how to craft suspense and spook audiences using low-tech means. That doesn't mean he should or that anyone need take notice of the instantly disposable result.

The film contains numerous acts of bloody violence, including a suicide and multiple stabbings and slashings; pervasive rough language and profanity; disrespectful attitudes toward religion and prayer; and a number of sexual references and banter involving teenagers. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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