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Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soultaker (1990)

Soultaker (1990)
Written By: Vivan Schilling & Eric Parkinson

Directed By: Michael Rissi

Starring: Joe Estevez, Vivian Schilling, Gregg Thomsen, Robert Z’Dar, David Fralick.

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
I wouldn’t say that I’m easily impressed, but when it comes to writing reviews and watching bad movies, then maybe I’m easily swayed. The values I’ve rediscovered in the past few weeks via my Video Cassette Player have breathed new life into the website and my passion for the truly awful. In fact, I’ve become a scavenger of sorts; more willing to dig through the stacks at my local Goodwill than I am to peruse the new DVD shelves in a Best Buy. Facing facts isn’t easy, but if I must, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that my VHS lust is out of control.

I suppose you can imagine how excited I was, then, when I found this little number hanging on the shelf by itself at the local thrift. For less than a dollar, I was able to secure myself a copy of yet another MST3K-parodied gem, Soultaker. Look at that poster at the top of the page. Stare at it for as long as you can. When you see that on the front of the VHS box, you probably reacted just like me: holy shit, this will be awesome. The only way it could be better is if the tagline for Soultaker was "He'll Take Your Soul." It made no difference to me that the film was from a company no one had ever heard of, a video distributor that walked the fine line of decency, and contained a cast of “has been” or “never was” actors. This was something different. This was Soultaker, damn it.

Chances are you’re in one of two select groups when talking about this film: either you’ve never heard of Soultaker, or you’re part of the fan club. When it comes to a movie that is this, well-documented its hard for folks to sit on the fence. The story is very loose, which, at least, allows for it to flow quickly. A ragtag crew of youngsters looking to party and have some fun will soon have their party crashed and their hopes dashed as they wind up dead courtesy of the menacing (and sometimes incomprehensible) Soultakers. And with all this sex and violence mixing up in the early 90’s, its no wonder that we’ve got clich├ęs galore.

First of all, this movie exemplifies what it is to be a “macho man” in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Mullets, the “Wet Look,” goofy sunglasses, no chest hair, short shorts and cutoff t-shirts: man, this is rough. As if the men oozing machismo towards the no-class, low self-esteem vaginal crowd isn’t enough to get you interested, our lead teens (who look at least 35) seem to be torn lovers brought back together by fate…or something like that. If you don’t get enjoyment out of the fashion statements when juxtaposed to the tension of the plot, then you might want to fast forward.

Joe Estevez (brother to Martin Sheen, so yes, he’s part of the family), plays only the second creepiest Soultaker on the prowl as these kids drink and drive. The first is a large, Thor meets Fabio like creature with an incredibly huge face. His jaw width alone has to be some kind of Guinness World Record. Estevez, complete with pocket watch, determines that these kids are out of time given their reckless ways, and after about three minutes of alternating shots between the turmoil in the car and live-action pole position footage, they finally pay dirt (or just regular dirt). When Estevez heads in to claim the souls, a ritual he performs while giving his best Shang Tsung impression, he is only able to obtain one of the five teens. Estevez transfers the soul into something that appears to be a glow-in-the-dark cock ring in the interim. He must now hunt down the remaining four and complete his job,

Here’s where it gets confusing: they’ve pretty much split the reality plane in two, wherein all of them died in the automobile accident, yet their spirits believe nothing has truly gone wrong and they can still walk as mortals. Think of this as “Sixth Sense” disease, in which the dead with unfinished business walk the Earth not realizing they are in fact deceased. Yet, they’re not exactly dead either, since they have vital signs in reality and are simply in a comatose state. Whenever the Soultaker hunts down a member of his prey (which he does to Bleach-Blonde-Brad about five minutes later), he literally kills the spirit and then makes it evaporate into thin air. Then, in reality, they flat line. So what happens when the spirits discover their separation from the real bodies? Well, unlike the typical collaboration of body and soul upon the realization of actuality, these guys just don’t seem to comprehend the circumstances beyond their control. Are you getting all this? There will be a quiz.

Quickly, it comes down to the former lovebirds against the Soultakers, but the ante is raised up when Natalie, our lead temptress, is sort of reincarnated former love for Estevez. What follows is your typical pursuit thriller that raises serious questions about the real “evil” of Estevez. He’s almost sympathetic. Or maybe just pathetic. Either way, you’ll feel the same for him as you do for the movie.

Quote of the Film:
“They seem to think that someone’s trying to kill them tonight.” -Mrs. McMillan, an awesome mom, spirit medium, and negotiator.

Final Thoughts:
To their credit, the makers of Soultaker do a fabulous job of raising the all-important question as to whether or not you can be displaced from your body and feel stuck in some kind of Purgatory awaiting closure. Movies as thrilling and psychological as The Sixth Sense examined this theory, as did much less notable films like Casper. The concept alone is a great one to toy with and can be explored in about nine thousand different directions. All that said, this movie fails to truly explore any of those dimensions past the “but are we dead? Or are we alive?” conundrum that reels in the tedious stale fish after about 15 minutes. Like I said, the concept of life after death, purgatory, fate of your soul and everything in between is really cool. This movie isn’t.