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Film / Soultaker

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Soultaker is a 1990 fantasy film starring Vivian Schilling (who wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the original story), Joe Estevez and Robert Z'Dar. The story involves a group of teenagers - unaware that they were killed in a car crash (due to the carelessness of their coked up driver/good friend) - on the run from an angel of death. As they flee from "The Soultaker", he begins picking them off one-by-one and becomes infatuated with one of the teenagers, Natalie, who is the spitting image of his lover in a past life. The two remaining teens, Natalie and her ex-boyfriend Zach, attempt to reunite their souls with their hospitalized bodies before their parents decide to pull the plug.

The film won a Saturn Award in 1992 for Best Genre Video Release, but its still best known for being featured on a tenth season episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, featuring the guest returns of TV's Frank and Joel Robinson.

Completely unrelated to the anime series with the same name.

This movie provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Given that it was filmed in the late 80s, this should be expected, but Natalie's perm, Brad's mullet, and the Angel of Death's feathered locks are some standouts within the main cast.
  • And Starring: Robert Z'Dar as the Angel of Death.
  • Author Appeal: Vivian Schilling was in an auto accident that nearly ended her life and has inspired much of her work. She would revisit this topic in her 2018 novel Quietus, a book about a plane crash survivor who is haunted by angels of death.
    • Also, the movie is a Love Triangle about two men fighting to win the heart of Vivian's character.
  • Bathtub Scene: A rather lengthy and gratuitous sequence of Natalie stripping her clothes off in the bathroom when she returns to her house. Made particularly disturbing by her mom peeping on her the whole time.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: The detective investigating the crash tries to get his Grissom on by questioning the odds of car doors opening by themselves in a high-speed, head-on collision. In the MST version, Crow quickly and correctly points out that the odds are actually quite good.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The main characters discover that Natalie's body is scheduled to be taken off life support at midnight, and have to resurrect themselves before then. They don't actually make it in time, but it doesn't seem to matter, even though the camera keeps focusing on a clock for minutes afterwards.
  • Damsel in Distress: Natalie constantly needs to be rescued by Zach.
  • Determinator: The Estevez reaper will let nothing stop him in his pursuit of souls, particularly Natalie's.
  • The '80s. Depressingly so. (Production ran into the late '80s.) The film shows how the late '80s bled culturally into the early '90s.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: While souls are Invisible to Normals, Zach's dog is able to sense his presence, and Natalie's canary freaks out in her presence.
  • Evil Wears Black: How the Soultaker dresses. It comes off as Johnny Cash cosplay more than anything.
  • Fanservice: The extremely lengthy sequence of Natalie taking a bath is clearly only in the film to add this element. Stranger still that the actress actually wrote this film.
  • Flashback: The Estevez reaper has flashbacks to his previous life and killing his love.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: The detectives find the cocaine involved in the crash this way.
  • Foreshadowing: When Natalie and Zach arrive at her house, the fact that her mother can see them when their souls are usually invisible to everyone is a sign that it's not really her mother.
  • The Grim Reaper: He looks like Robert Z'Dar in a black trenchcoat, and has a large number of subordinate psychopomps beneath him who all killed people in their lives.
  • Guns Are Worthless: An attempt to shoot the Soultaker does nothing...but he is later taken down with a golf club. Mocked in the MST3K riff.
  • Identical Stranger: Natalie happens to look exactly like the Estevez reaper's wife.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Natalie. She's so pretty!
  • Invisible to Normals: The disembodied souls, who are otherwise able to interact normally with physical objects. Animals are also aware of them.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: The Angel of Death.
    Crow (as Z'Dar's character): Man, that guy's got a small face.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Zach Taylor shares a name with the 12th President of the United States.
  • No Name Given: The Estevez soultaker. He's simply named "The Man" in the credits.
  • Neutral Female: Natalie pretty spends the movie being bounced around between Zach and the main Soultaker guiding her actions.
  • Noun Verber: The Soultakers.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Apparently, they can be stuffed into rings and carried around like Pokémon.
  • Psychopomp: When you kill somebody in life, this becomes your job in the afterlife. This is probably the only halfway cool idea in the movie.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The soultakers, as a group, aren't really evil; they're merely collecting the souls of those fated to die. The Angel of Death specifically calls out the Estevez character for obsessing over Natalie rather than focusing on his mission, and ultimately the Angel imprisons him in a ring for disobeying him.
  • Race Against the Clock: We're given midnight as a deadline for both Natalie and Zack's bodies to be taken off life support and for the Soultaker to collect their souls. It's not entirely clear why the latter matters to the Soultakers, but the Angel of Death explicitly declares the effort failed at midnight.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The film was inspired by Vivian Schilling surviving a car accident in real life.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Toyed with. Natalie apparently resembles the woman that the Soultaker shot in a previous life when he caught her in the act of infidelity. The movie isn't clear if she is reincarnated, or if Natalie just looks like her, but regardless, the Soultaker thinks she is.
  • Spanner in the Works: Mr. Taylor inadvertently saves Zach (and Natalie) by not signing the form to authorize disconnecting him from life support, keeping Zach's body alive long enough for his soul to rejoin it later.
  • Stairway to Heaven: There's apparently an elevator to get there. And a ladder. There is explicitly no stairway though.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Natalie and Zach. One's from an upper class family, the other's from a lower-middle class family. After Zach saves Natalie's life (and his disapproving friends all die), both families find peace with each other.
  • The Stoner: Brad claims he gave up coke, but got a snootful before driving the car which led to the crash.
  • Teleport Spam: The Estevez reaper likes to teleport while walking. In a straight line. Achieving the same exact pace he would if he didn't bother.
  • Villain Ball: The Estevez reaper catches this when about halfway in the movie he has Zach by the throat and, after being rejected by Natalie, throws him out the window rather than taking his soul like he has to!
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: The Estevez soultaker, who uses this power to take the form of the heroine's mother.