A young boy in a dress cuts off his wiener with scissors after his mom crushes his puppet-doll. Is this some hellish Freudian nightmare? Actually, you’re watching the opening scene of Cassadaga.
Cassadaga (pronounced: CASS-uh-DAY-guh) is a small unincorporated community located in Volusia County, Florida that residents claim is the “Psychic Capital of the World”. Cassadaga is also the name of an indie Horror film, set in said community. It’s the second directorial offering from Anthonly DiBlasi who impressed the hell out of me with his 2009 début Dread.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Cassadaga tells the story of Lily Morel (Kelen Coleman), a post-lingually deaf artist, who participates in a séance in the spiritualist community of Cassadaga. But instead of getting closure with her recently departed sister, Lily contacts the vengeful ghost of a murdered woman. As the ghost becomes increasingly angry and violent, Lily rushes to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death – a task that will bring her face-to-face with a sadistic serial killer who turns his victims into human marionette dolls.
Writer/producer Bruce Wood says that he was fascinated by the town of Cassadaga as a youth and felt compelled to use the world famous destination as a backdrop for a Horror movie. The town of Cassadaga certain does have a rich and bizarre history, but this film isn’t a documentary and the location alone is not enough to guarantee a fictional story’s success.
I’m sure I can dissuade most readers from ever watching Cassadaga with three words: Puking bloody maggots. If this doesn’t send you running, the film has plenty of other juicy treats to tickle your gag reflex, because Cassadaga aims to shock and disturb. And while the effects certainly are nauseating, the disjointed, poorly executed script prevents any true or lasting terror.
It’s a story we’ve already seen plenty: A vengeful ghost wants justice and haunts a person she believes can help, like The Grudge or The Gift. But when treading familiar territory, innovation is key, and Cassadaga offers little in that regard. The “mystery” behind the identity of the serial killer is pathetic. I’m not giving spoilers here, but the film only has 4 male leads. We know from the intro that this particular psycho is dickless. So we know that 2 of the four guys have dicks (one has sex, another jacks off to porn), and another guy is African American. So if we know the killer is dickless and white, well—duh!
Also, what’s up with the multiple voices? Are we supposed to just assume that a killer who’s obsessed with puppets is also a ventriloquist? And even if he is, can anyone really “throw” their voice like that, prompting characters to look up or behind them as the true fiend descends? Seemed weird to me and, without any explanation, it’s really just a distraction.
Cassadaga tells the story of Lilly, a woman looking for relief from a past that haunts her. By helping the vengeful spirit that has attached itself to her, she is able to put her own ghosts to rest. Worthy themes, but this effort simply lacks execution. At times hardcore, other times super cheesy, Cassadaga struggles to even find a unifying tone for delivery.
I can’t really blame DiBlasi for this film’s shortcoming. Yeah, it’s nowhere near as impressive as Dread, but look at the source material: Dread was originally a story penned by Horror legend Clive Barker whereas Cassadaga was written by Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley (who the heck are they, am I right?). Its unfortunate though because with a great story, DiBlasi’s potential is without question. So I can’t help but see this as a misfire for this young director and feel… disappointed.
It’s not a bad film. I certainly wasn’t angry that I devote 90 minutes to it. If you watch 5 to 10 Horror films a week like me (and have a strong stomach) sure, go ahead and add it to your queue. But if you’re more selective about the films you consume, you can certainly do better than Cassadaga.
2.5 out of 5 Severed Dicks.
|Release Date||October 11 2013|
|Starring||Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, Louise Fletcher, Rus Blackwell, Hank Stone, J LaRose, Amy LoCicero|
|Tagline||The other side is closer than you think….|