Sweet Taste of Souls is a 2020 horror feature debut from director Terry Ross, who had previously directed a number of short films, most of which were decidedly not horror. While a background in horror is not a requirement for making a good horror film, it does somewhat come into question when making one that is not so good.
While traveling by van to their next gig, the members of a band struggling to find a “break” stop in at a small-town bakery for a bite to eat and a chance to stretch their legs. While we do see a flyer featuring the band’s name and image, there is nothing present in this film that would make you believe that these kids are in a band. Sure, we see one character strum the same string twice in one scene, but that’s as deep as the presence of music goes in this film. Well, that is, unless you count the film’s painful opening song. If you can make it through that without skipping ahead or turning off the film completely, then you can surely tolerate the rest of it.
Inside the diner, which is known for its award-winning cherry pie, they take notice of the proprietor’s small but odd collection of photographs, all of which were taken by the woman herself. All of the photos feature people in front of plain white backgrounds, generally looking unpleased about having their photo taken. Little do they know that the woman, Loretta (Honey Lauren, who appeared in Vice Academy Parts 4-6, and may have also been a dancer at one point for 70’s/80’s rock group The Tubes), has seemingly magical powers that allow her to trap people in her photo frames just by taking their picture with her camera.
The band draw Loretta’s ire once one of them accidentally knock a photo off of the wall. Although the kids leave the bakery, Loretta is able to essentially teleport them from where they are back to her bakery, albeit now inside one of the woman’s photos. They then spend the remainder of the film trying to free themselves from their imprisonment on the bakery’s wall.
There’s some tension created by band member Nate’s passivity and lack of courage, and his borderline abusive relationship with his best friend (and bandmate), Kyle, who is only present to justify Nate’s growing a backbone in the final act. There’s also a subplot involving the detective father of one of Loretta’s previous abductees attempting to bring the woman down once and for all, but it ultimately adds little to the plot besides creating a convenient distraction in the final confrontation with Loretta.
Sweet Taste of Souls does have some rather clever and fascinating ideas at play, such as the rarely exploited concept/myth of capturing souls via photograph, or how Loretta’s victims are seemingly removed from time and space while trapped within one of the photo frames. Unfortunately, the film is unable to put these pieces together in a manner that is either cohesive or particularly entertaining.
One of the most glaring issues with the film, and one that plagues many modern horror films (particularly those of lower budget), is that the core group of characters are generally quite whiney and unlikable. Quite simply, I just can’t see these people actually being friends, let alone co-existing as a band that is able to work together to create a unique and uniform sound. Then again, it worked for Pink Floyd, so what do I know. Either way, it became difficult to root for these people.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we, the viewer, were actually meant to root for the villian. In a sense, we can, as the evil Loretta is indeed a rather intriguing character. However, the film may spend arguably too much time focusing on a past abusive relationship of her own as the catalyst for Loretta’s corruption and descent into madness, and not enough on the obviously malevolent presence that appears to be the source of Loretta’s powers. Unfortunately, yet again, when the entity does finally manifest itself in a physical form, it is accomplished via a highly unconvincing CGI sequence that (in my opinion) greatly weakens the film. I understand that a lower-budget does frequently mean lower-end special effects, but this was undoubtedly a situation where less would have probably been “more”.
Overall, Sweet Taste of Souls presents some really promising ideas; ideas that may have been better served in a different form of media. In other words, with the space for more and deeper character development, this story would probably make one Hell of a read. However, as a film (at least, in this specific example), Sweet Taste of Souls left a fairly bitter aftertaste.
One final note: For a film that makes such a big deal out of Loretta’s cherry pies, it’s somewhat odd that they do not really factor into the plot at all.
Sweet Taste of Souls was released to streaming outlets earlier this month, on November 1st, 2020. It is available to watch on Amazon Video, DirecTV, InDemand, Vudu, AT&T, FlixFling, and Fandango. While I personally was underwhelmed by the film, you may enjoy it more.