Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Move to Cassadaga for Ghosts and Good Times: A Movie Review

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*here be spoilers.

Director: Anthony DiBlasi.

Writers: Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley.

Cast: Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro and Louise Fletcher.

Cassadaga is a great film! This review had to start with this phrase. As background, Cassadaga is a film from the producer of the Midnight Meat Train, Anthony DiBlasi. DiBlasi also worked on After Dark Horror's Dread from 2009. So, there is a horror pedigree here. Writers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley are relatively new to the genre; however, they have penned a great entry in horror.

Cassadaga stands out for introducing so many genres. There are elements of the supernatural here, with a ghost motivating events. There are also elements of the horror genre as a serial killer roams the hiking trails of Cassadaga, Florida. A love story develops and drama is central to the story. It is arguable to say that drama is the film's anchor. After all, this is a film that captures a brutal death of the protagonist's sister early in the movie. All of these genres create for a heartwrenching, but must see film!

Actress Kelen Coleman must also be seen as Lily, a deaf teacher and student. She has lost and loses much of her family in the film. She tries to recover from so much loss by starting fresh in Cassadaga. Unfortunately, a serial killer lurks about and one of his old haunts is on Lily's home and estate.

A body is also housed on the grounds and its spirit wants rest. Yes, this is a ghost story, so there are some conventions here. This spirit wants burial and it also wants revenge. The ghost of a murdered woman haunts Lily until she is motivated to unravel a murder mystery (another sub-genre).

And really, this is a story about Lily. She is central to the film. Only when the antagonist is about, does the protagonist's presence wane. She is believably compassionate and a vulnerable character (deafness). What she lacks in hearing, she makes up for in an ability to contact the dead. This leads her to not one but two suspects. Neither will be mentioned here to maintain the surprise. Yet, the Gepetto, a human puppetmaster, is a master of throwing his voice. And this gets him close to his female victims. Most are destined to become human marionettes. One other character is of note. A romance begins between Mike and Lily at the midpoint of the film. Both have issues and they seek solace in each other. Their time together is short lived with custody battles, murder, kidnapping, ghostly appearances and possible mental illness threatening to break them up. And you thought Romeo and Juliet had it bad.

The characters are what make this film so enjoyable, along with another element or two. The characters are multi-dimensional. Even the serial killer has a psycho-sexual complex a mile wide. Wood and Poiley's attention to the character's details are what sold this film to this reviewer. The tone is one of tension especially during the many torture scenes. These are hard to watch. More tension develops when the villain is identified. The pace amps up in these final scenes. The great mix of genres has already been mentioned and Cassadaga has high production values, which can be heard in the score and soundtrack. The film quality is also of high calibre and the film shows polish.

Only the length of the film dampens the storytelling style. Some editing could have been used to cut back on extended scenes for breadth. More red herrings were also needed. There really were only two or possibly three suspects. The most obvious suspect is most likely not the killer. So, attention focuses on another character who is introduced and outroduced in one scene. These details will still not give the killer away, but this reviewer identified the villain a little too easily.

In the bloody end, Cassadaga captures the imagination and the potential of the horror genre. This is not exclusively a horror film and more of a hybrid. Yet, there is enough terror here to keep horror film fans on their toes. And this is the experience that they want. This reviewer tensed up during many of the scenes and Cassadaga is recommended for all of the reasons mentioned here. You do not want to miss this title and fans only have to seek it out across the pond. Search for this film to find horror's true potential.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

*available on DVD in the United Kingdom as of April 16th.

Another positive review of this title is available at Dread Central (Sean Decker):

Cassadaga Reviewed at Dread Central


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