Independent Film Review - 4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker (2012/13)

Breaking Glass Pictures - 3 Roses Entertainment
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Rated: No MPAA rating
Directors: Mike Campbell, Todd Johnson
Writers: MIke Campbell, Todd Johnson
Starring: Katherine Browning, Mike Campbell, Leah Verrill, Ashley
Love, Tiffany C. Walker
Comedy | Horror
Originally titled The Rental (which they could and should have stuck with), 4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker opens with a murder and proudly ends with the prospect of many more to follow. It aims to be a true horror movie inside and out, not being afraid to end with hopes dashed and bright futures darkened. We can check that off the horror moviemaker’s to-do list.

“Mr. Devlin Chito” (Mike “Napoleon Bon Appétit” Campbell) seems like a nice landlord. He’s about to rent the place to 4 new college girls who are absolutely taken with it and its three bedrooms, not to mention the dirt-cheap monthly rent. They are: “Lily” (Katherine Browning). She’s the least likable and most religious of the bunch; her sister is “Lori” (Ashley Love), a lipstick lesbian, and her lover is “Pam” (Leah Verrill) who is also a lipstick lesbian; and finally, there is “Bianca” (Tiffany S. Walker), the “slut” of the bunch.

Together, they do what girls do—prattle on about nothing and laugh and sometimes fuss at each other over minute drama. Everyone seems a bit confused about what they want, and with the exception of Lily, everyone is sex-obsessed. We get to see lots of sex, but actual nudity is practically not to be had.

About that landlord, he may be nice, but he’s also creepy, a creepy undead from realms unknown. Even clueless college females can pick up on how “off” the guy is. And while he may not be obsessed with sex, he is certainly a stalker as he took the time to leave the netherworld and install cameras and equipment in the house to watch them to decide when the exact moment will be to swoop in and consume their helpless, wicked souls.

When the murders begin – followed by these bizarre soul meals – the panic begins. From there, the girls act…well, not much different than they did before the killing started. Leading up to the slaughtering and soul-sucking are the chicks making out—and showering and screwing college professors for good grades and bickering, and being watched by a supernatural force to plot their demise, etc. Had things been done right, this could have been a successful movie. Instead, what we get is one that fumbles in its attempts at comedy and can’t quite decide if it wants to be a horror or a horror spoof.

From the opening, we aren’t sold on this Na Lusa Chito (the kind of being Devlin is supposed to be, originating from Choctaw mythology as a being who preys on the souls of virtue-lacking women), nor are we sold on the computer-generated special effects that make him possible. This was just one more on a long list of reasons that could be made to ditch the supernatural plot and just have a creepy-ass landlord who is trapping ladies for the purposes of breaking them down psychologically and torturing them before cannibalizing their remains (there's an idea, filmakers! Are you listening?). Or, with a little revamping, this could have been made into a real nice porno. It would have been one of the best, too!

Lori and Pam needed to be lipstick lesbians since no one really wants to watch things as they would be—with a hot woman paired up with some short-haired, ugly, butch-looking thing who dresses like a man and wears baggy clothes. So the “hot chicks” route was the way to go. Unfortunately, we feel that much more led on as we watch a movie with little to stimulate us aside from sleazy encounters and a hopelessly grim predicament for the four pretty ladies.

By way of thrills, the film is not suspenseful and isn’t scary, but it isn’t boring, either, and certainly not wanting for worthy performances. Its cast does a well-rounded job of delivering mostly credible lines and making us want to start to feel for them. There is even a surprise or two toward the middle and end, both made possible in part by our determined actresses, with Browning and Love giving us the best. Campbell has had a few appearances in movies and TV shows and is more than a fit for his part with that creepy, egocentric, soft-spoken smart guy energy he keeps replenishing.

4 Dead Girls is generally well-choreographed and privileged to have such a polished look and feel. Most of the problems thus far addressed are simply par for the course with what we are left with when amateur filmmakers can’t get the nuts and bolts of human relationships right or iron out the kinks with proper storytelling skills. Indie horror buffs are much more tolerant of many of the flaws present here while the rest may should remember the grade and steer clear if ordinary viewing is what is being sought after. This is one of those occasions where, if trailer looks bad to you, then you'd hate the movie even more.