Review in a Hurry: After seemingly selling off the remake rights to every movie he's ever made, Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes) has taken the money and, with the freedom to create an all-new tale of terror and release it with an R-rating, he made this? A derivative day-trip to dullsville? D'oh!
The Bigger Picture: Craven's first full-length original screenplay in 16 years offers a misbegotten mishmash of past triumphs, with a slasher-killer named the Riverton Ripper, who looks like a tall homeless man in a Rob Zombie mask and may either be a rip-off of Freddy Krueger or Scream's Ghostface.
Depending, of course, on whether he turns out to be a schizo teen, or a presumed-dead psychopath with a mystical connection to the kids of his victims. Whichever wins, as another familiar horror tagline has it, we lose.
Perhaps the alleged "master" has become bored with the genre, as nothing here is especially scary. Craven does show some aptitude for creating teen characters beyond the one-dimensional, as his born-again girl is no hissable zealot, his blind black kid far from a token pushover, his bleached-blonde no bimbette, and his goth empress the unlikely queen of the school.
They even get some legitimately funny dialogue early on. Sadly, the soul is swiftly sucked from the setting, rendering the movie's moniker essentially accurate, at least (certainly more so than the awful working title 25/8).
Seven of the kids were born the night the Ripper apparently died, and there's some mumbo-jumbo about how his multiple personalities were actually separate souls (a concept with very nebulous rules that are ultimately abandoned anyway). But now he's back! Or is it his soul in somebody else's body? And honestly, is anyone really frightened of the short, curved-blade knife he favors? Like its wielder, it does not appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed.
It might be easier to have mercy on the mediocrities herein if not for the fact that Craven has been blabbering on in interviews about all the cool tricks 3-D allows him to use, when it's plain for anyone to see that the 3-D is a half-assed post-conversion, and nothing in the movie itself appears to have been conceived with it in mind.
The highlight of the film, in fact, is a freaky bird costume, presented in a school biology class, that actually vomits and defecates upon its audience. It'd be nice to think the director were self-aware enough to recognize the obvious parallel.
The 180—a Second Opinion: In the goth-girl role, Emily Meade shows some spark, elevating the character beyond what you might expect. Too bad she's saddled with an unfortunate Star Wars reference.