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Soul to Keep Brings ASL Film Demons to the Deaf

American sign language or ASL is rare in film. Most of the cast obviously had a lot of ASL learning to make this film possible. This movie does contain some ASL signs from many characters. Soul to Keep is an independent feature film and an interesting one at that.

Directors David Allensworth and Moniere got the idea for this film from a horror-comedy script called ‘I Eat Your Soul.’ They loved it so much, they put all of its ingredients into a film about a demon called Beelzebub. Beelzebub is super keen on consuming as many souls as possible. 

Beelzebub, a demon hellbent on consuming and possessing souls, goes after siblings and their lifelong friends at a rundown country house.
Soul to Keep 2018 #SoultoKeep2018
Shady Tree Films/Cineque Pictures

Soul to Keep has just finished it’s world-premiere at Shriekfest and will follow on with Other Worlds Austin for a Texas premiere soon. So far information on further release is unknown.

  • Directors: David Allensworth and Moniere,
  • Writers: David Allensworth and Eric Bram,
  • Production: Shady Tree Films and Cineque Pictures,
  • Starring: Sandra Mae Frank, Aurora Heimbach, Kate Rose Reynolds, Tony Spitz, Craig Fogel, Derek Long, Jordan Theodore, Brandon, and Jessie Jordan.

Soul to Keep Contains ASL Signs

This is unlike anything I have ever seen before. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but a lot of the films I review, I go into with little to no information. I rarely watch entire trailers (except if I’m really curious or at the cinema) and for the most part, I assume a bag over my head prior to consumption.

I’ve seen films that have deaf people in them. Hush (2016), for example, prominently features the lead role as someone who is deaf. A Quiet Place (2018) also features a character who is deaf. ASL in this film definitely shows some moments that shine.

Soul to Keep is something else though. This is a film that made me feel like I was watching a movie with the subtitles on.  I have small children, and I actually watch movies in English from time to time with the subs on.  It’s great for when the kids (or any rampant yap-yap) won’t shut up because I still know what’s going on. Nearly all the scenes in this film, contain characters conversing in sign language while speaking. On top of that, there’s added yellow subtitles so that the hearing still knows what’s being said when just sign is being used.

According to production notes, a deaf interpreter made sure that the parts of this film with sign language could be understood by a deaf person. The intention was for the film to be enjoyed by both the hearing and the deaf. Despite efforts that should be applauded in this regard, the movie fell a little flat for me. Not because of the sign language or the subtitles but due to the story and the camera work.

The Cinematography

I’m not usually someone who pays attention to cinematography in films unless it’s overly stunning or overtly lacking. I’m sorry to say that firstly I was annoyed that some scenes looked like someone picked the camera up off the ground and walked backward with it. Secondly, a lot of the rest felt like I was watching a found footage film. Maybe this was intended to give a more personalized feeling, but it didn’t grow on me. One character Freddy played by Craig Fogel does some impromptu mobile phone filming. This was all fine but for the rest of the movie, I felt like we were still looking through the lens of someone external watching what was happening on screen.

The story itself is disjointed. It simply has no promise of bringing something new to the demon/possession table. There is a lot of sex in this film too. For me, putting too much or ill-timed sex scenes into a horror movie simply gets on my goat (pun intended.) I mean, the girl (Grace, played by Kate Rose Reynolds) goes to town on some hanky-panky. I know it’s because the demon is enjoying the freedom of a new sexy body but I also think this could have been dialed back a little. Some of this time would have been better spent fleshing out the story.

ASL Film Signs

I spent a good bit of time wondering how such a group would come together. Did Tara, the deaf girl, get her boyfriend to learn sign language? Did the rest of the group follow suit? How long have they been hanging out together to have such a grip on signing and talking?

What About the Good Stuff?

I did like the ending and the slight twist. The deaths that came before it made me wonder even more about the group dynamic. None of them seemed particularly upset. Even Brandon (Jordan Theodore), who gets an ear bitten off by the demon, happily walks off with Grace when told the danger is gone. It’s like nothing ever happened. They are mostly fledgling cast members though and this would have been a tough gig with so much going on.

I also really liked The Strain nod from the demon itself along with a bit of an Under the Dome entrapment from the spells cast. Overall though, it was a little messy. I’d say younger adults might like this, but there was too much sex for them to be the target audience. It really is worth watching just to see that a movie like this has been done. It really is one of a kind.

I give Soul to Keep 

2.5 conjuring demons in a triangle with a dead animal might seem like a great way to party but it’s clearly not out of 5

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Soul to Keep 2018 has ASL signs for the deaf in its narrative.
The Night Comes for Us
Joe Taslim as Ito. The only time you see him without his shirt on because it’s not that type of movie. #TheNightcomesforus

ASL in Movies – Trailer for Soul to Keep

Soul to Keep, an ASL film