I have previously written about how films taking their plots and aesthetics from the classics of their genres can be a risky business; yet some of the better genre films and series of the past decade, such as The Cabin in the Woods and American Horror Story, have proved their worth far beyond the risks. However, it’s a different story entirely when a movie shamelessly rips off previous works with little or no desire to uniquely play with the pilfered details in any engaging setting. When all we can see is the movie you’re stealing from, regardless of how effective any other element may be, all we’re going to feel is a desire to experience that (far better) film over your inferior replication. That delivers us to David Allensworth and Moniere’s newest feature, Soul to Keep – a toothless and utterly frustrating “horror” film that seems to understand everything that goes into its standard genre exercise, yet is entirely inept on how to implement any of it.
“…the gang stumbles upon a secret room in the basement with bloody evidence of unholy rites…”
Two carloads of yammering weed-smoking friends are headed out to a remote and increasingly decrepit farm that had belonged to the late grandfather of twins, Erin (Aurora Heimbach) and Brandon (Jordan Theodore). While taking advantage of the isolation to throw a drug-fueled house rave with a fully-fledged DJ booth and light show, the gang stumbles upon a secret room in the basement with bloody evidence of unholy rites having been performed there recently. The token Wiccan Grace (Kate Rose Reynolds) warns the rest that a book that they discover near the ritual site is full of spells for summoning, binding, and vanquishing the demon Beelzebub. So they decide to summon him.
If all of this sounds familiar, it is because this is The Evil Dead. No, seriously. Even hosting low-rent ripoffs of the Deadites, who instead of wisecracking or being at all terrifying, are busy knocking pelvises and growling. Oh, and white eyes, don’t forget those. True, the film throws a few unique curveballs our way through the inclusion of deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank’s strong turn as Tara, and she is buttressed by a completely capable (and well-selected) cast. However, that’s roughly where it all comes tumbling down once again, as any sense of palpable terror that could be wrung from this experience is undone by the film’s damn narrative (and thoroughly terrible use of computerized effects). Though it does make self-aware references to The Blair Witch Project, also seemingly pulling direct elements from The Amityville Horror and even Ghostbusters, it follows too closely to its Raimi-crazed inspiration for it to ever be more than a tedious countdown to the inevitable catharsis. These influences are not bad choices per se, but there isn’t any seamlessness in how they’re used, with the film relying almost exclusively on jump scares to drive its tone.
“…a different story entirely when a movie shamelessly rips off previous works…”
The film’s color palette is drained and flat as if shot in S-Log and then wasn’t color corrected. The sound is mixed together with reckless abandon, with hard audio edits often heard when cutting between shots; circling the question “is this the camera audio?” around my mind with a regular frequency. But all of these pitfalls are endemic of the film’s hamfisted continuity. That doesn’t just extend to the literal continuity editing between shots and between scenes, but narrative continuity and characterization within the actual story – nothing is fully developed.
While there are select moments of creativity that bleeds through the slog that is this film, there isn’t enough in Soul to Keep to keep even the most passive of horror fans enthralled.
Soul to Keep (2018) Directed by David Allensworth, Moniere. Written by David Allensworth, Eric Bram. Starring Aurora Heimbach, Jordan Theodore, Sandra Mae Frank, Kate Rose Reynolds, Jessie Jordan.
2 out of 10