Soul to Keep: Demon Thriller Possesses Too Few Scares and Fresh Ideas

A group of teens head to a remote cabin to party, but end up meddling with demonic forces. The Evil Dead? No, guess again. Could it be Cabin in the Woods? Wrong. If you guessed low-budget indie horror, Soul to Keep, you’d be correct. Netflix just added this familiar demonic possession thriller. Unfortunately for Soul to Keep, imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery. With a few ideas, does Soul to Keep distinguish itself from similar horror movies or does it feel too much like a retread of better movies?

Synopsis

Siblings bring a group of their friends for a weekend of drinking and drugs at their dead grandfather’s rundown cabin. However, the festivities grind to a halt when the teens find an old text detailing demonic rituals. Performing the ritual was supposed to be a joke. But what started as a harmless game turns into a nightmare. They’ve unleashed something evil into this world. Something hungry for souls.

Soul to Keep Treads On Familiar Ground

Soul to Keep doesn’t just follow the general premises of much better movies. You can’t fault a horror movie for setting itself in a remote cabin. But Soul to Keep recycles too many elements to feel genuinely fresh. An ancient text of demonic rituals. Evidence of satanic sacrifices in the basement. An invisible dome trapping everyone on the property. Yes, we’ve seen all these things before. Writers David Allensworth and Eric Bram have some, but arguably , not enough original ideas to add to a concept horror fans know. There’s an attempt at a twist near the end. It adds a wrinkle to the formula, and some horror fans will appreciate it. But it’s also a curveball necessitated on too much expository dialogue and disconnected flashbacks.

Writers David Allensworth and Eric Bram don’t have enough original to add to a concept horror fans know.

Instead, Allensworth and Bram do add some unforgivable sins to the movie. Honestly, in 2019, do horror movies still need to use the ‘no cellphone reception’ plot device? Soul to Keep’s characters also make incredibly poor decisions. After noticing a foul smell they still decide to go into a locked basement. And when they find blood and evidence of some satanic ceremony they decide to perform a demonic ritual. Afterwards, they just keep partying. Apparently none of these characters have watched many horror movies. True, Soul to Keep isn’t the first horror movie to rely on these tropes. Patient horror fans may also connect to the movie’s occasionally atmospheric indie horror vibe.

Soul to Keep Can’t Exorcise Sluggish Pacing and Inconsistent Execution

In addition to a screenplay credit, Allensworth co-directed Soul to Keep along with Moniere. Even with an overly familiar story and low budget, Soul to Keep could have struck a chord with good scares or inventive, over-the-top gore. After all, it’s not like Evil Dead was a big budget production. To their credit, Allensworth and Moniere deliver a few well-executed jump scares. In addition, the movie opts for more psychological than visceral horror. Yet among its problems, Soul to Keep takes too long plodding through a story we generally know to fully nail its efforts to unnerve. Once it gets to where it’s going, Allensworth and Moniere don’t have many more tricks up their sleeves. As a result, we get a few boring sex scenes free of nudity, and some sparse, mild gore.

Though Soul to Keep picks up the pace near the end, it still can’t quite stick its landing.

Though Soul to Keep picks up the pace near the end, it still can’t quite stick its landing. First, the low-budget demonic chiller’s climax is a little groan-inducing. It’s an absolutely improbable development that the directors and movie have in no way earned. Simply put, the big finish is an ‘Oh c’mon’ moment’ that requires too much suspension of belief. Even in a movie about demons. And finally, Soul to Keep even teases an unnecessary false ending. It’s a nice tip to other horror movies, but doesn’t follow from its climax.

Actors Saddled with Bland or Obnoxious Characters

To be fair, Soul to Keep is a low-budget horror movie. As such, I don’t think anyone would expect award-worthy performances. And the performances are a little stiff across the board. You won’t recognize any of the actors who, to their credit, turn in passable performances. No one is bad; that is, there’s no one who drags the movie down. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t all well-written. In some cases, a few characters are so barely fleshed out that remembering their names is challenging.

Other characters are either bland or obnoxious. Soul to Keep does inject a character dynamic not generally seen in this type of movie. Ultimately, however, you’re unlikely to care enough about or miss any of the characters when they meet their demise.

Soul to Keep Possesses Too Little To Fully Recommend

Occasionally dull and a little too derivative – Soul to Keep may get lost among the host of demonic movies streaming on different platforms. Not enough is done to hide its influences or distinguish itself in a major way. If you’re going to stick a bunch of teenagers in a remote cabin with demons you’d better at least soak your movie in over-the-top blood or offer some dark humor. With Netflix still streaming so many demonic possession movies, Soul to Keep offers too little to make it stand out, but patient horror fans may find something to like in this indie thriller.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C-

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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