Take a bunch of partying young adults, put them in a cabin in the middle of no where with drugs and alcohol, and throw a demonic book in the basement that they read from and you have the basic recipe for some of the greatest horror films ever. While it's a plot that's been done time and time again, there's a handful of movies that take that Evil Dead influence, add in their own extra elements and plot twists and they manage to really make their story stand out in a sea of horror films. One of those films that stands out among the rest is SOUL TO KEEP - a new to streaming film written by David Allensworth and Eric Bram, and directed by Allensworth and Moniere - that starts off much like those described, but takes its own slick twists and turns and manages to create a really intense, trippy, and even mindfucky narrative. Not really knowing what to expect going into it, Soul To Keep actually blew me away with how engaged I was in the characters and plot, as well as the unexpected wrenches the writers toss into the story to really throw you off. What started out as an okay movie became a great movie and honestly - by the time the credits roll - I'd even go as far as saying it is an excellent movie; yeah, it's that damn good.
Readers beware: possible spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution!
Soul To Keep follows eight friends - four guys, four girls - as they venture off into a cabin in the woods that was previously owned by the grandfather of two of the party goers (who are brother and sister). Once they arrive at their weekend getaway in the middle of no where, they bust out the beer and drugs and kick the party into overdrive - that is, until the group makes their way into the basement of the house where they stumble upon a demonic altar, equipped with blood, bones, an animal head and a grimoire that has spells to summon, contain, and banish Beelzebub - one of the seven princes of Hell - and his minions. Was Pop Pop up to no good in the basement, or is there a larger evil at force here?! Like all great horror movies before it, the genius kids read from the book and attempt to summon Beelzebub and have him possess the body of one of the friends. When their attempt fails, the adorable dark Wiccan redhead Grace continues the spell to allow the demon to take control of her own body. From there, things go from awesome to awful as Beelzebub - now controlling Grace's physical body - seeks to gain control over everyone else at the cabin to deliver Hell on Earth. It's up to the remaining friends to either banish or destroy Beelzebub - even if it means taking out their friend Grace in the process.
I'm willing to bet the majority of people - upon hearing this synopsis - will probably think "eh, another Evil Dead rip off" and give it a hard pass before giving it any time; and I get it. There's been plenty of not good independent horror flicks that share the same basis, but I can assure you, this is not one of those bad films. Once the main villain Grace has her body taken over by Beelzebub, the movie gets fucking wild as things get out of control, and the writers included some pretty wicked, unique elements to the film to really make it stand out from the others. This is not the same retelling of an old tale, let me reassure you on that. Story aside, there's so much to dig about Soul To Keep and honestly, not a whole lot to hate. The casting team knocked it out of the park with this one: the eight friends feel like they have a legitimate friendship - not just an on-screen one - and their acting is pretty stellar and doesn't feel amateur at all. And while every actor and actress in the film does an excellent job, the real star that stood out to me was Kate Rose Reynolds who portrayed Grace: from innocent sweetheart to soul-sucking servant to Hell, Reynolds stole the show with her exceptional performance in both opposing roles. When ol' Beelzebub takes control of her body, Reynolds body language and movement feels naturally evil and unholy, and that's something to note that only adds to the quality of the film. Again, no disrespect to the rest of the cast because everyone was kickass, but Reynolds really upped the ante.
When you really break it down, there's a lot going on in Soul To Keep: from drugs to drinking games to demon sex scenes to creatively adapting a party for their deaf friend (holding a balloon while the music is bumping to feel the beat, genius) to some crazy demon tongue shit to force fields and more. There's plenty to keep you engaged from beginning to end with this film, and like I mentioned earlier, not a whole lot to hate. There are some truly unexpected twists you'll encounter in the conclusion of the film - and honestly, I'd call anyone who says "I saw that coming" a bullshit artist because these definitely will catch you off guard. And to add an extra star to the film, they do something that I'm sure a lot of people would love more horror films to do: when you finally get hit with the brick to the face that is the twist, the writers included a quick flashback-style cut into the film that kinda plays as puzzle pieces to bring the whole twist to justification and explanation. If you didn't understand the twist when it hits, by the end of the little brief montage, you'll be caught back up and filled in. An excellent choice to add into a film like this one where one might have missed something. It plays out beautifully.
The final verdict is in on Soul To Keep: it's a must see. Whether you decide to rent it, buy it, whatever - do whatever it is you gotta do to see Soul To Keep. Your initial reaction twenty minutes in will say "this is an Evil Dead rip off" but I can assure you, the story deviates entirely from that plot and goes completely on its own into a dark realm of demon goodness. You'll get some great action that doesn't rely at all on jump scares or cheap tricks to get and hold your attention - a true sign of a horror done perfectly. I loved every minute of this one, and I'm confident you will too. Check this one out!