Sociological studies and pop culture have shown us that many people believe in some sort of an afterlife. Some believe in heavenly gates and angels and clouds and stuff. Others believe that the wicked are sent to a fiery abode of the damned where red devils skewer the evil with pitchforks all day. Others believe in reincarnation, returning to Earth in the guise of another person or creature. I'm willing to bet that nobody believes in the afterlife experience depicted in the 1990 film Soultaker, directed by Michael Rissi, in which Martin Sheen's relative Joe Estevez sucks the souls of the dying into little green neon rings for processing in a boiler room at the top floor of a hospital. Written by and starring Vivian Schilling, the film is obviously done on the cheap with little done to check continuity or overall sense. Subplots are introduced that are not followed up on and in the middle of the movie is a creepy scene featuring a mother peeping on her teenage daughter in the bathtub that will both titilate and require therapy to repress.

The film opens with Ms. Schilling as Natalie McMillan, daughter of the mayor. She's on her way to Summerfest where she bumps into her lower class ex-boyfriend Zach Taylor (Gregg Thomsen). Through a series of contrived events they wind up sharing a ride home with Brad Deville (David Shark) and two other characters who are inconsequential because, for reasons dictated by the script, Brad runs the car off the road and into a tree which kills the two undeveloped characters. The Grim Reaper (Estevez) appears to suck the souls of the dead, but he's shocked to find that Brad, Zach, and Natalie aren't dead after all; the crash caused their souls to be knocked loose from their bodies. They now exist as ghosts and are on the run from The Man who is trying to suck their souls into his little neon green rings of doom. Oh yes, and if they can't get back to their bodies by midnight, the doctors will disconnect life support and will kill them further, it seems. Don't analyze this too hard or you'll get a splitting headache.

Soultaker is probably best known for its appearance on TV's Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode #1001. This is the episode in which departed characters Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and TV's Frank (Frank Conniff) return to celebrate MST3K's tenth anniversary. The host segments of the episode include little homages to past episodes, such as the sequence where the doors will not open at movie sign and Professor Bobo's frequent run-ins with a piece of lab equipment in Castle Forrester that is reminiscent of Dr. Clayton Forrester's pratfalls in Deep 13 in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.

But back to the movie itself... Soultaker is one of those movies that can't really decide what it wants to be. It has elements of a horror film with a love story featuring religious overtones including frequent lulls and dangling plot points. The movie is available on video and DVD, but I'd recommend only taking on this film with the help of Mike and the 'bots.

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