26th Mar2019

Horrorhound Weekend: ‘Soul to Keep’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sandra Mae Frank, Aurora Heimbach, Kate Rose Reynolds, Tony Spitz, Craig Fogel, Jordan Theodore, Derek Long, Jessie Jordan, Connor McKenna, Brian Donovon | Written by David Allensworth, Eric Bram | Directed by David Allensworth, Moniere

soul-keep-poster

A group of siblings, and their lifelong, friends decide to throw a party at a rundown country house belonging to the grandfather of one of family. It’s all fun and games until the lights go out. Searching the basement to find the fuse box, the group discover a secret ritual room, complete with animal bones, blood, and meat arranged in a large triangle. Not to mention the nearby grimoire – a demonic spell book. The group is convinced now that the siblings “Pop Pop” (as he was affectionately known) truly went crazy.

One of the group, Grace, being familiar with it all, reads over the grimoire to discover a spell to conjure the very powerful demon, Beelzebub – one of the seven Princes of Hell. Drunk and high, the group thinks it’s a fun idea to conduct a possession spell to see if it’ll work. And to their surprise it does! Beelzebub has finally arrived and he will stop at nothing to consume their souls, possessing them one by one…

So a bunch of twenty-somethings in an abandoned “cabin” who come across something evil. Where have we seen that before? Well… Of course it’s a staple of the horror genre these days; however when it’s done well it is a horror trope that can lead to great things and even greater movies. So how does Soul to Keep fare?

Well, it takes less than 15 minutes for Soul to Keep to throw out its first scare and, surprisingly, it’s a REALLY effective one – even if it is something of a cheap jump scare. After all, audiences have been programmed to get creeped out by eerily singing children right? But the way in which you know what’s coming, married with the subtle build-up and then the OTT jump scare come together makes it so effective and a definite marker of just what’s to come from the rest of the film. However it’s in the films final third where Soul to Keep truly shines, subverting expectations tremendously with an out of left field reveal of the true secrets of Pop Pop’s country home and just why this particular gang of characters are where they are.

What’s truly interesting about Soul to Keep though is the roster of characters. Whilst yes, we do get the usual cliched characters in this group and yes, a number of them are obnoxious (which means you really want them to die first – but what’s new there?), the film does have some characters outside of the typical stereotypes of the genre: a vlogger (an easy way of including found footage AND exposition), a wiccan (outside of Buffy something of a rarity in the genre) and a deaf character, Tara; and not just a “token deaf character” either. Nope, Tara is a fully-formed, well-rounded character who just happens to be deaf – what’s particularly noticeable, besides the fact all her friends can sign, is that her deafness doesn’t hold her back, make her a victim or make her an easy target for all the spooky goings-on. In fact Tara is central to this tale and her deafness is actually her strength.

Featuring some fantastic visual effects, including a rather phallic way of possessing human souls and the occasional shot of much-needed gore; and cinematography that somehow manages to make even the daytime seem terrifying – making the most of the locale and the buildings upon it (with cracking, and thankfully sparse, use of drone shots) - Soul to Keep is a superb debut feature from David Allensworth and Moniere; and one that should be applauded for such positive representation of disability.

A film that was clearly made by people who know and love the genre (you can seen the nods to other horror films running throughout the film), Soul to Keep screened at Horrorhound Weekend on Saturday March 16th 2019.

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One Response to “Horrorhound Weekend: ‘Soul to Keep’ Review”

  • We (HorrorHound) loved SOUL TO KEEP. It was exciting to see how a hearing-challenged character existed in, interacted with, and engaged the plot. AND, much thanks from us at HorrorHound for providing exposure to independent film and filmmakers.