Horror movies are a tough nut to crack. Anyone can put a bunch of “boo, gotcha” scares or some grotesque gore into an hour and a half flick and call themselves a horror filmmaker, but the true masters aim for something higher. Or lower… get it? Yeah…
Soul to Keep is one of those films that aims to be something more while paying its dues to what has come before. It tells the story of a group of young adults that go to a creepy old house for a weekend of fun. Of course, there’s some evil thing lurking that they decide to bring to their world because they don’t have horror movies in their world to teach them not too. What ensues is equal parts Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, Scary Movie, and something unique.
There’s actually a few things that make this movie unique and one of the most obvious is the inclusion of the deaf character, Tara. Sandra Mae Frank does a delightful job portraying Tara, and the rest of the cast does an amazing job at seeming like natural signers. LRM Online had the opportunity to speak with filmmakers David Allensworth and Moniere who stated that Tara came later in the story development and was not a part of the original script.
This is an important factor to keep in mind while watching the film and seeing how organic Tara and her friends’ use of American Sign Language feels. Tara is in no way hindered by her biological limit, and the filmmakers go out of their way to ensure her “disability” is just a part of who she is, not a focus of the movie. She really is just “one of the kids” when all the bad stuff goes down. This is a breath of fresh air in an era of filmmaking where people are constantly trying to pat themselves on the back for putting this or that type of person in their film.
The movie does a great job of paying homage to the horror movies of old but not in a patronizing way. The writers crafted a story that provides good twists and a final act that will leave the audience in awe. There’s not a wasted moment in this film and the writers did everything they could to make sure of that. This movie benefits from not being a gore focused film. It earns its scares through the story and character development and never settles for cheap moments. Okay, there are moments where the demon is passing on its demon-ness and that is as close a “gotcha” scare this film has, but still better than may modern films’ “boo” moments. I found myself enjoying this movie’s attempts to give me nightmares.
This is a true ensemble film and no one person carries the film on their shoulders. The story follows a mostly logical arc, with a traditional suspension of belief, and never seeks to be more or less than a good horror movie. This type of simplicity is a good thing. There are great twists that some may see coming, and others won’t, but in the end, you will feel satisfied having watched this flick. The few complaints I have could be addressed with a larger budget (special effects), and some smoother performances from some of the characters. Especially from Craig Fogel who had to bring the narcissistic millennial to life. It’s not that he fails to do this, only that it comes off a bit too forced. I am a narcissist, trust me, it’s hard to fake. I guess that means he’s a better man than I am.
Overall this movie delivers something fresh. In an age of horror remakes and reboots, the filmmakers aimed to be different and they succeeded. I put this with movies like Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. These movies aim to provide viewers with what they know while tickling their fancy for something fresh. Great job you demon raising kids!
Soul to Keep is on digital, on demand, and home video today, April 2nd!
OVERALL SCORE: A-
Similar Films: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, The Cabin In The Woods, and The Evil Dead