Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad has helmed his most polished and intense offering to date. His 2014 film Jinn was decent, in large part thanks to a strong cast. But it lacked both atmosphere and scares. My Soul To Keep is his follow-up to that feature–only his fourth film altogether–and the intervening years have been kind to the director. There are several pulse-pounding, eerie moments throughout the film. The mostly single location of the house (with a few scenes happening elsewhere) is creepy and offers plenty of areas to bathe in darkness.
Ahmad also keeps the film at such a frantic pace that the viewer cannot ever catch their breath. As a director, he has delivered a scary, visually impressive horror for the whole family. Though, with his and Justin Hynous’s screenplay, they have gotten two-thirds of the way there. Eli is very well written and is believable, as are his two friends. The creature he is fighting against, be it real or only a figment of Eli’s overactive imagination, is compelling and unique.
The two writers do a bang-up job with the parents as well. The Bravermans care for both of their kids and want to do right by them at all times. In a fantastic early scene, Eli’s concerned teacher shows his parent’s a drawing of the monster he made and explains the story he told as part of show and tell. The parents don’t see it as a big deal, as an imagination, dark though it may be is a good thing.
“…keeps the film at such a frantic pace that the viewer cannot ever catch their breath.”
I adore everything about this scene and the parents all the way around. The problem is Emily. She’s the one who convinced Eli it’d be a good idea to share his story of the creature that keeps him up late at night. To enact a little bit of revenge, Eli and Sam film Emily applying make-up. She gets all angry about it, so she dresses as a slasher killer and scares Eli while he’s asleep. This same prank almost goes awry when their dad comes into Eli’s room, ready to bust some creep’s head up.
Her prank leads her to be severely grounded, and as such, she must watch Eli while the parents go on a very nice dinner date. But she does not stay there, and this strains credibility quite a bit. Given how awful and “psychotic” Emily has proven herself, that the parents aren’t tracking her phone, or some such, is the most unbelievable aspect of the movie. Technically, the parents do have a plan in place to deal with that, but it involves Emily’s boyfriend, so not the best strategy. Dominic also does not seem like the kind of person who would shrug off his duties, so that he goes along with Emily’s plans to ditch the kid makes the second half hard to swallow.
My Soul To Keep is well directed, wonderfully acted, and is a horror movie for children that is scary. But the writing for one character does not work, which means the script puts itself in knots trying to justify certain actions or moments. Overall though, My Soul To Keep is worth a watch, especially for brave 9-year olds.
"…several pulse-pounding, eerie moments…"