Sixteen years ago there was this crazy guy named the Riverton Ripper. Through digital technology there were able to figure out the Ripper has a knife with the word vengeance on it. A family man finds that bloody knife in his house and realizes that during his blackouts he is an evil murderer. This family man is played by Raúl Esparza, one of the greatest actors working today. He’s an accomplished actor on Broadway recently starring in Speed the Plow and his role in the revival of Company ranks as one of my all time favorite performances. It is incredibly depressing that this is his first major screen presence.
Through a series of familiar horror conventions, the guy dies but according to Haiti voodoo legend, his schizophrenia means he has multiple souls and his soul may still live on. Or maybe he didn’t die and he’s still out there ready to kill again. Maybe his “death” ties into the seven children who were mysteriously born at the same time. So in present day, those seven children are still terrified of the Ripper and they celebrate Ripper Day, which consists of one of them punching a puppet of the Ripper to keep him dead. Or something.
It’s very clever to have a lot of different mythology sources in this movie. There is the Haiti legend, there is a Christianity theory, there is this puppet thing and more that keep randomly being inserted into the story. The problem is this isn’t a case of flawed narrators. Somehow they’re ALL true! If a character randomly said aloud, “The Ripper will explode of a leaf of lettuce touched his right cheek,” it will become true. It’s always exciting to have a new monster on screen instead of playing with the same conventions of vampires or whatever. Yet this is just really stupid.
Since this concept is really stupid and contrived, Wes Craven wasted a fun spin on a horror trope. There isn’t one character in this movie who doubts that a 16 year old murderer’s soul could still attack people on the day of their death. There’s usually an annoying character that would powerfully argue there aren’t any werewolves in the area despite the reports of giant wolves attacking people on the full moon every single month. So even though that is relieving not to have that irritating character, but since everyone instantly believes what is going on they’re just seen as insane from the audience’s eye.
Speaking of insanity, I’m not sure Craven has any sort of grasp on high school anymore. In between jump scares and creepy noises in the night, there is this ridiculous high school plot. Let’s try to break this down. Bug is one of the scared Riverton Seven and he likes Brittany but hates Brandon. So to get back at Brandon he listens to a 2AM radio show talking about birds and creates a giant condor costume for his friend Alex to wear. Alex wears this costume during his presentation to fly around class, which results with projectile vomiting on Brandon.
Then there’s also this thing with a girl named Fang who uses high school like the mob and she authorizes who Brandon is allowed to hit and to what power. There is also a scene where Brandon chases Brittany through the woods demanding oral sex. Then there is this extremely Christian girl why only speaks in condescending spiritual advice. This is such an obnoxious stereotype it’s even offensive to atheists. Also I think high-schoolers only travel through their bedroom window in horror movies and Clarissa Explains It All.
It’s the combination of this crazy plot and utterly terrible dialog that makes this movie watchable despite how bad it clearly is. The drive home will be devoted to theories about this movie. Not about its themes or philosophies but simply wondering “Was that supposed to be a joke?” and “How does this make any sense?” At least it wasn’t boring.