4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker (2012)

Description (from the press materials):
Lily, her best friend Bianca, sister Lori, and Lori’s lover Pam move into their first off campus house together. The antics and the tempers run high. What they don’t know is that the owner is a Nalusa Chito – a soul taker – who eats the souls of evil women. For the girls, it is a battle to the death because only the innocent can kill him.

Major Cast:
Katherine Browning as Lily, Tiffany S. Walker as Bianca, Ashley Love as Lori, Leah Verrill as Pam, Mike Campbell as Devlin Chito

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Interviews with the Cast, Deleted Scenes, SFX Creation

Written and Directed by Mike Campbell and Todd Johnson

Man, where to begin on this one. It opens with a very cheesy, full of jump-scares intro that really sets the tone for the entire movie. That tone is: it’s hard to take this seriously, and not in a parody sort of way, just in a bad sort of way. Cheap cliché scares, a Halloween wig, boring “old-age” makeup, quick little jump scares of no consequence, and a very digital looking video quality set a benchmark that the rest of 4 DEAD GIRLS never really gets over.

The idea here is that the landlord of this rental property is a very slightly veiled demon that feeds off of evil women, so he rents to college girls and steals their souls. This is a fertile idea for a horror movie, and even more so this could be an awesome feminist horror film (especially since two of the protagonists are in a lesbian relationship), but instead 4DG ends up just being a very cheap, very badly made cheesefest. This is cemented the first time we get to see a soul being taken, and the wonderful After Effects style SFX. Man, nothing takes me out of the moment more than bad effects, especially bad digital effects, and 4DG’s got ‘em. Before I even can be taken out of the moment, I have to have a story and script that gets me into that moment, and I never even really got there with 4DG, so no harm no foul on the effects I guess.

We've got SFX!
We’ve got SFX!

If I was shown a house that had super low rent, a creepy landlord whose name was basically “Devil,” and AUTOMATICALLY LOCKING DOORS, I think I’d be a bit suspicious. No, I think I’d run like hell. This is just the first of a series of logical errors / plot issues (actually, the first would be the intro girl grabbing the worlds smallest knife to fight off the Soul Taker) that run throughout 4DG. We’ve got a group of girls living off-campus (one of whom is no way no how under 35) for the first time, and they’ve found this great house they can afford. Again, this could have been a set up for a great feminist film, with strong female characters; instead we have caricatures (the virgin, the slut, the good-at-heart lesbian, the promiscuous lesbian) that we’ve all seen a million times before. I find it really funny that the first girl we see naked is the virgin. Huh? Anyway, so they have fallen into the Chito’s trap (who, by the way, they even figure out is a “Chito” based on the fact that one of them just happens to be taking a class that includes Choctaw mythology???) and before they can get out, he’s locked them in and is going to kill them off. Standard slasher / demonic type stuff ensues, with a few slight twists.

That's what you get for living in a house with auto-locking doors and windows, stupids.
That’s what you get for living in a house with auto-locking doors and windows, stupids.

I was really surprised at the end to see that 4DG was shot on the RED camera, because the video quality does not show that at all. I know I’m watching this on a SD DVD and not a Blu-Ray, but the movie still looks pretty “digital” and is lacking that great depth of focus and true film like quality that comes from good use of the RED system. This may have to do with inexperience with the camera, or it may have to do with the lighting. Looking at some behind the scenes photos, it is obvious that they had a pretty decent lighting set up, but I still found the lighting in the film to be not too great. A lot of the dark scenes were just too dark, and a lot of the light scenes were almost harsh. The lighting is especially evident in one scene in the bathroom where it is supposed to be nighttime outside, but it looks like sunlight pouring in the windows, and this disparity again took me out of the story (that happened a lot while watching 4DG). As far as the composition of the shots goes, there just wasn’t anything that made me really excited at all. It wasn’t ever bad or boring, but there was nothing special that made me jot in my notes “that was a nice shot,” it was just very adequate.

What's going on here?  I don't know either.
What’s going on here? I don’t know either.

The acting in 4DG was again not so great. It was not so low budget as to be classified as the “your friends and neighbors” level – I expect all of these people were cast and have done / will do other things – but there just wasn’t much true feeling or emotion from most of the characters. This may be from lack of experience of the actors, or it may be from lack of direction from the directors, it’s hard to say. Browning as Lily, while a bit annoying in her goody-two-shoes character, was believable throughout the film and probably gave the strongest performance. Campbell’s Devlin was just a bit weird and off, not in a threatening way (other than when he is the Soul Taker, and there the use of his nice calm soft voice was actually pretty creepy and quite effective) more just in an odd way.

IMDb and the Facebook page for 4DG lists the movie as a Horror Comedy. This confuses me big time. I didn’t really find anything funny about it until the Soul Taker comes along and locks the girls in, and Pam starts cracking wise, which for me was a very out of place time to bring the comedy aspect into the film. It was too little too late, and its placement by that point in the film felt very bizarre in an otherwise mostly serious horror film. It reminded me of a movie I worked on years ago, WEDDING SLASHERS, which was intended to be a Horror Comedy, then the producer decided that it should just be a horror… but decided to leave in two comedic scenes towards the end that then felt incredibly out of place. The tension in 4DG is finally building for the first time really in the whole movie, and then it is undercut with some silly comedy that comes out of left field; there wasn’t yet enough tension to really need a release and by this point in the film it was way too late to establish 4DG as a real Horror Comedy.

I find it really weird that a Nalusa Chito - a Choctaw Indian invention - would use Voodoo dolls... but then again, there was a lot in 4DG I didn't get,
I find it really weird that a Nalusa Chito – a Choctaw Indian invention – would use Voodoo dolls… but then again, there was a lot in 4DG I didn’t get,

Overall, I just could not get into 4DG. It had a couple of good things here and there – the Soul Taker’s creepy voice, the whole dynamic of the killing of the girls and the feeding of the Nalusa Chito, and I really did like the repetition of the opening scene towards the end which was a nice plot gimmick – but it was way too many cons for the few pros that I found. It overall was just not that scary, not that funny, and not really all that well made. The practical effects were decent, the digital effects were laughable, the script missed a bunch of opportunities, and the film as a whole was just a weak entry into the already bloated genre of supernatural slashers.

Overall 4 / 10

4DG on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2252444

4DG for sale: http://bgpics.com/index.php/template-styles/new-releases/item/209-4-dead-girls or http://amzn.com/B00E8N31ME

4DG site: http://www.facebook.com/therentalmovie

The Rental (2012) (4 Dead Girls Original Title) Theatrical Poster
The Rental (2012)
(4 Dead Girls Original Title)
Theatrical Poster
4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker (2013) DVD Cover
4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker (2013)
DVD Cover
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