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CASSADAGA
DVD. G2 Pictures / After Dark

CassadagaCassadaga is a film that really shouldn’t work: seemingly unable to decide what it wants to be, the film is like a compilation of popular horror movie themes – ghost story, giallo, serial killer movie, torture shocker, J-horror and murder mystery. It’s to the credit of writers Scott Poiley and Bruce Wood and director Anthony DiBlasi that the often convoluted story hangs together as well as it does, though most viewers will probably find themselves scratching their heads at times as assorted horror movie tropes are crow barred in and seemingly significant plot points go undeveloped.

Kelen Coleman play Lily, a deaf art teacher who moves to the town of Cassadaga – ‘the psychic capital of America’ – after the death of her younger sister in a road accident. After a visit to a medium, she finds herself being visited by a bloody female ghost, and before long in coughing up bloody gouts of maggots. Meanwhile, women are being kidnapped and tortured by a psychotic killer who mutilates them in his basement, turning them into grotesque living puppets. Through a convoluted series of events, Lily becomes convinced that the killer is the son of Claire (Louise Fletcher), head mistress of the local college and Lily’s landlady. As the apparitions continue, Lily starts to investigate the murders along with boyfriend Mike (Kevin Alejandro) and things soon begin to spiral out of control.

CassadagaThere are plenty of holes that you could poke through Csaadaga’s story if you were so inclined. The killer’s motivation is pretty vague – a rather shocking pre-credit sequence hints at it, but there’s so little development of the theme that it will leave you unconvinced, and a strange supernatural element to the murderer (different voices appearing all around the victims before he attacks) goes entirely unexplained. Likewise, the ghost story elements, heavily influenced by the shock tactics of J-Horror, are effective scares but it’s hard to understand how infesting her with maggots is supposed to motivate Lily to help solve the murder – which is apparently what the ghost wants.

That the film works surprisingly well is a credit to the assured direction of DiBlasi, the screenplay that manages to juggle the various plot points and shock tactics well, and to the cast. Coleman and Alejandro bring a sense of depth to their characters, who are refreshingly free from genre stereotypes (and in the case of Coleman, deaf character stereotypes). They seem fully rounded, genuine people, as do the supporting cast, and they make all the difference in letting the audience ignore the parts of the film that might otherwise feel a bit hackneyed.

With some genuinely grotesque moments of physical horror (serial killer ‘Geppetto’ carries out some of the most twisted killings you’ll ever see), seriously creepy and inspired use of sound (and silence), moments of gothic madness and a well-paced story development, Cassadaga is a very pleasant surprise, and while certainly cluttered with ideas, offers an entertainingly fresh approach to the genre – with a post-credits ending that hints at more to come. On the strength of this, that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

 

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