September 14, 2012

Cassadaga (2011)

"A deaf girl attempts to contact her sister during a séance, only to connect with the ghost of a murdered woman."

Over a year ago, my friend John Slowdeath was promoting "Cassadaga" on his blog as if it was going to be the best horror movie ever. I was, of course, quite suspicious at the time. Owing to the fact that I'd never heard anything about it before, and haven't seen a DVD of it for sale anywhere since, I'm still not entirely sure what all the fuss was about.

As you know, things move pretty slowly around these here parts when it comes to movie reviews. I watch at least three horror movies a day, but, since I have a life, writing about newer movies isn't one of my priorities. I'd rather watch and review old horror movies from the '70s than anything modern anyway, so it has taken me until now to start playing catch-up again.

The weirdest thing I discovered about "Cassadaga" is that there still doesn't appear to be a US Region 1 release of it on DVD. At least, that's my understanding based on my searches through Amazon for an affiliate link. Instead, it's only available as a Region 2 DVD which is no problem except for the extortionate price. Thanks to eBay, that's hardly an impediment either. You can guess which option I chose.

Is "Cassadaga" even worth $11.99 plus shipping though? Not really.

Although not exactly the same story, if you've ever seen "The Gift" (2000), you'd be forgiven for thinking that "Cassadaga" was a slightly reworked remake. Both movies are set in the South, both involve a kidnapper/serial killer, and, obviously, the psychic/haunting angle is almost identical. Comparing the two movies beyond that would be like comparing apples to oranges, but, superficially, they are just two versions of the same thing done by different filmmakers.

I know that there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to horror movie plots so I'm not going to make a big song and dance about it. The differences in "Cassadaga" were enough to keep me entertained all the way to the end, but I still wasn't really satiated by it.

The best thing about "Cassadaga" was Lily as played by Kelen Coleman. I honestly don't remember the last time I saw a deaf character in a horror movie and so she was something different. There's a mute character in "Mute Witness" (1994), of course, and numerous blind characters have been the victims of thrillers from "Wait Until Dark" (1967) through to "Blind Terror" ((1971) and right up to "Blink" (1994). I'm sure there are more which I can't remember, but deaf characters are still quite a rarity. As ever, if you can think of any, let me know in the comments section below.

I can't say that Kelen Coleman was very realistic in the role, but I think the plot hole was nicely avoided by her hearing loss being fairly recent and due to illness rather than from birth. I'm sure her voice would still have changed though, and I wasn't convinced that she couldn't hear anything. To be honest, I didn't really care that much as I was too busy admiring her long limbs and trying to work out if she was actually pretty or not.

"Cassadaga" spent a little bit too much time on characterisation and tended to focus more on Lily's love life with Mike (Kevin Alejandro) than it did on the horror elements, but I didn't mind that. The characters weren't the most interesting so they needed all the help they could get. I would have liked to have seen more of the serial killer, "Geppetto", doing his thing, but that's just my own sick preference. What was shown of his marionettes was still gory and more than enough to get the point across.

My second favourite character was, oddly, the cop played by Lucius Baston. He actually seemed like a nice guy and less dumb than cops usually are in horror movies. I won't say any more, but one of the most overused tropes just had to ruin everything there. I was very annoyed.

I was even more annoyed by the "Scooby Doo"-style reveal of the killer's identity since, not only was it predictable, there wasn't enough made of that character to even care. The "red herring" suspect was far more interesting.

At times, "Cassadaga" was a little bit confusing. It also lost its pace after about 40 minutes and then floundered for another hour as it swapped the focus of the plot way too many times. Combining a ghost story with a serial killer thriller was a nice idea, but it didn't really work in this case. Justice was served too quickly and far too neatly just to make way for yet another overly sentimental scene before the ending fell completely flat.

The few jump scares did nothing for me, and the epilogue with a final shock was completely unnecessary unless there is going to be a sequel. As much as I wouldn't mind seeing more of Kelen Coleman in movies, I really don't want to see a sequel to "Cassadaga" if at all possible.

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