That means I didn't like it.
Wes Craven will always have my respect for the great things he has created and the way he's kept his career visible and active lo these many years. I get no special pleasure out of sniping at him... any more than I enjoyed blasting away at GHOSTS OF MARS. Craven both shocked us AND created iconic figures with LAST HOUSE and HILLS. He gave us the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and did it again. And while the fan club spiralled out of control and practically transformed SCREAM into a church, I'd be the last one to deny that he knew exactly how to play that one. Even when he settled into comfortable mainstream thrillers, he gave us slick, efficient work such as RED EYE.
But every now and then he pulls a monkey out of his hat, especially when he's trying IN ADVANCE to create a franchise. SHOCKER must have sounded like a gem, but that movie could never figure out just what the hell it wanted to BE (aside from a money machine that wasn't). And now comes this painful retread that tries to be a bunch of different films Craven has already made and falls even further from finding a direction.
I get the impression that this one sat on a shelf for a year or so (and I believe it must have been called "Ripper Night" originally, as scarcely a scene goes by without somebody invoking the phrase). Now, you can try to stop me if you've heard any of this before, but I'm obliged to continue as I DID sit through the whole film, okay? And as I watched the film, I continually heard the voice of Koly McBride (my director in the current production of REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA) repeating one word over and over. When confronted with something ridiculous, she has a way of looking at the perpetrator and offering one word.
It's not what she says, it's the WAY she says it. So small wonder she popped up here.
A serial killer who's either completely schizophrenic or legitimately possessed is finally offed at the stroke of midnight just as his unborn child is born prematurely. The event also causes six other babies to be born prematurely in the same town at the same moment.
Well, the "miracle" baby has a troubled (but very foggy) history, and he's still not prepared to enact the ritual of "Ripper Night" along with his fellow birthday children sixteen years later. Everybody ELSE in town knows who he is (or at least, they OUGHT to), but somehow HE doesn't.
Someone or someTHING starts bumping off the birthday teens one by one. Our hero (known as "Bug") sees ghostly visions in the mirror as his dead friends try to warn him what's going on (as if THEY know). See, either the Ripper himself survived (they never found his body) or his soul has shown up in one of the birthday kids (not necessarily his own, but it MIGHT be). Exactly what Bug is supposed to DO about any of this is never suggested by the helpful phantoms.
Oh, look. We've got jock bullies. We've got pretty princesses. And Bug's older sister, known as "Fang," is the leader of the cliquish high-school bitch-pack. And she's introduced marching down the center of the hallway, flanked by her flunkies, while rock music pounds on the soundtrack.
REALLY? You're giving us THAT one, Wes? Are you even TRYING to offer us something new, or are you TRULY satisfied to sign your name as writer AND director to material like this when we all KNOW you can do so much BETTER?
Yeah, there's an amusing bit involving a condor costume put to vengeful use during a classroom lecture. In fact, they make a HUGE deal about the condor "meaning" something to Bug. And there's a stuffed condor watching over the woods. And condors fly in the sky. And animated condors flounce all over the end credits. And he says something about "being" the condor. But it never clicks... if there's some native magic being invoked here, it never reaches the effect of, oh, let's say THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. And no, we never get supernatural condors flying down to attack or rescue anybody, either. They just say "condor" a lot.
The villain? Easily the LEAST frightening apparition Craven has even attempted to put on screen. Hey, even SHOCKER had Mitch Pileggi, and the shortcomings of that film certainly weren't HIS fault. Here, we get some guy in a prop costume running after somebody on a bridge and muttering something like "I am the RIPPER!!!" I swore this had to be a joke, that this guy would do the "ha ha funny" thing on the victim before the REAL killer showed up. But no, THIS was apparently supposed to be the scary part.
Oh, and he delivers threatening messages in a distorted voice via cellphone.
And as the list of suspects dwindles, characters spend a LONG time arguing over which one of them really OUGHT to be the killer, while supposedly crucial events take place off screen. Oh, and dying characters have time to spout off QUITE a bit of explanation before they croak. "Well, I saw you going this way, so I climbed up through the window, and then when I saw you do this, the Ripper came out and got me, but at least you got away so you could do that other thing..."
As for the realistic choice for unmasking? Well, Craven may or may not have written it into one of his drafts, but my choice was a lot better than the one he finally gave us, if I do say so myself. My choice had a legitimate REASON to get involved, for one thing. Except that the Ripper is supernatural for no apparent reason or origin. Frankly, I'll bet this thing was written with seven different endings, each one of which would make just as much sense.
And finally? This wasn't Craven's fault, but the phony 3-D was the final insult. The 3-D is... hold on, I want to play a trivia game with you here. Which of the following four expressions did Colonel Potter NOT use anywhere in the series M*A*S*H?
A. Buffalo bagels!
B. Cow cookies!
C. Horse hockey!
D. Mule muffins!
Whatever you choose, that's what the 3-D is in this movie. This movie wasn't shot in 3-D and it never even PRETENDED to be in 3-D. There are NO dimensional effects to be had. This is the FLATTEST 3-D movie ever made (in both senses of the term), and it's conversion jobs like this that are going to ruin the fun of GENUINE 3-D for ALL of us.
MY SOUL TO TAKE isn't NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake bad. It's PROM NIGHT remake bad. And just for that, I'm going to do the unthinkable and break my earlier word. I'm going to bump CASE 39 up to the "middle" ground on the strength of what good stuff it DID have... ALL of which was better than this.
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