Review: MY SOUL TO KEEP Will Keep You Guessing
My Soul To Keep is a film, written and directed by Ajmal Zaheer Ahmed, that I just can’t wrap my head around. It is, in essense, about a boy who has has to fight off a monster in his basement. At least, that’s what the description for the film is on IMDB. The plot isn’t this cut and dry, however.
The story does follow a boy, Eli (Parker Smerek), who is shown at the opening of the film telling his class about the Burglary Monster—or, as Eli adorably pronounces it, the “burgaly” monster. We learn that this monster is just a story that Eli’s father was told as a child; one that he told Eli’s older sister and she ended up telling him. The plot of the story come to life is one that we’re all pretty familiar with. Thought the first act of the film might lead you to believe this, there's a little more up My Soul To Keep’s sleeve.
Instead of just making the monster the imagination of a child run amuck, we’re given a few different options to play around with. Right off the bat, we learn from one of Eli’s teachers that he may have BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder. The mention of this possible mental illness only happens twice in the film, which does make it something that you kind of have to work to remember.
The point may have been, though, that Eli’s illness actually makes him an easier target for the Burglary Monster. I think that's a pretty good reasoning, especially since it isn’t talked about much by his family.
The plot isn’t the only thing that shakes it up in My Soul To Keep. This film comes at you with everything it’s got. Each act feels like an entirely different film, in a sense. Honestly, if each act were entirely separate films I think I could have positively reviewed each of them.
The first act feels like a traditional children’s horror. It is reminiscent of The Sixth Sense in a suspenseful, fun way. The second act has more of a Stranger Things feeling, with the kids searching for answers to the identity of the Burglary Monster. The beginning third act feels no longer in the horror genre at all, watching Eli run around his house creating traps for the monster like a spooky Home Alone. The influence here is clear and it's really quite strong.
For most of the movie, the tone comes across as overall light-hearted, adventurous, spooky fun. This is, until the last five minutes. Without spoiling it entirely, the tone of the film shifts entirely at the end of the movie. There is a climax that is genuinely pretty scary and is very fun to watch, I will admit. The fallout after this climax, however, is brutal. This ending plays out like an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist that might make some viewers emotional. You may even be shocked when it is revealed.
If I had to describe My Soul To Keep in one word, it would be “fun”. It had a little bit of everything: thrill, heartbreak, almost a lots of kid-friendly magic. There is so much potential in every aspect of this film. The cinematography at times is really stunning. The two main child actors in the film did a really good job. The suspense in this film is really great at certain points.
All of these individual elements, with some elevation, could add up to a stellar second film. For this reason, I’m definitely interested to see how Ahmed follows up this cute premier feature.