What the horror genre lacks is a very good Voodoo film to get us excited and scared. Does Mark Tonderai’s attempt manage to cast its “spell” of magic or is this the one flick that we’ll be happily to stick a pin in?
Watching Mark Tonderai’s voodoo horror got me thinking in how great this concept is and how there is not many attempts by horror filmmakers in bringing more terror into this unknown world of dolls and magic.
Looking back, it was probably 2005’s The Skeleton Key with Kate Hudson which was the last film I watched of this kind, itself a decent attempt, which is now remembered for having a fantastic climatic twist that stunned when watched back then.
There is something quite magical and eerie when you set foot into this land of rituals and dolls. The often overlooked Wes Craven classic The Serpent and The Rainbow, is the one that many die hard horror fans look up to as the benchmark and when SPELL landed on my lap, I was generally excited to see if Tonderai can offer the same gripping scarefest.
It starts very interestedly as lawyer Marquis T. Wood (Omari Hardwick) who after a horrible childhood (told in flashbacks) has worked hard enough to finally give his wife and two children a lavish lifestyle that he never had.
Having heard of his fathers death, he takes his family back into the deep roots of rural Appalachia where a pitstop to the obligatory fuel station horror cliché starts to build the much needed tension that the script is screaming out for. We can sense the dread developing as there is something amiss in the air and we not quite sure where we are heading. Its a solid start and its here that the film sparkles with intrigue.
A Plane crash later and Marquis awakes in a strange room, his family nowhere to be seen and a woman in the shape of Eloise (Loretta Devine) standing over his bed and giving out the kind of Annie Wilkes vibes that will have you screaming for help before she reaches for a sledgehammer and your ankles are facing the wrong way. Not that Marquis needs more hurt, what with his one foot bandaged up and just by standing on it, bringing unbelievable pain.
Its here sadly that all the good build up is washed away thanks to is formulaic last hour that at times feels like we watching Groundhog Day than a horror. Marquis knows from the off that something is amiss with Eloise and we have several scenes where he somehow manages to leave and seek some clues to what is happening, only to rush back as Eloise is heading towards the supposed locked attic room.
Despite the creaky script, helped along with the usual thunderstorms and stormy rain, SPELL does offer up an eye watering horror moment involving a nail that will delight the gore hounds, even though it makes you wish that the finale offered more of this to quench our blood thirst.
What happens is so frustrating as there are some delightful small moments that scream to us that there is a great film hidden underneath the predictable script. In the shape of Eloise, we have a great villain with her use of Voodoo and magic, but we just needed more of it, not the occasional odd moment and the finale is wrapped up far too neatly to offer any great threat or a feeling of danger.
For all its trick and turns, the only spell this horror manages to conjure up is a sense of forgetfulness as once the final credits start to roll, you immediately banish it from your memory.