Thursday 29 October 2020

Spell (Movie Review)

Halloween is almost upon us, so you can bet your bottom dollar that studios will try to squeeze in a few more horror films before the festivities this weekend. And while January is generally regarded as their dumping ground for low-budget horror films, this past October has received its fair share of those. Spell is just the latest one to jump into the fray, a supernatural horror film rooted in hoodoo beliefs.

The movie stars Omari Hardwick as Marquis, a family man still struggling to deal with the literal scars inflicted by his abusive father during a troubled childhood. He has since become a successful lawyer with a beautiful wife (Lorraine Burroughs) and two teenage children. But after he receives news of his father's passing, he is forced to face his fears as he journeys home with his family for the funeral.

And those fears prove to be warranted when their plane gets caught in a storm and crashes on their way to the backwood town where he'd grown up. He wakes up injured and in the care of a hoodoo priestess (Loretta Devine), with the fate and whereabouts of his family members unknown. He soon comes to learn that she has something rather nefarious planned for him, if he doesn't manage to find his family and escape.

Spell is yet another horror film that barely skirts by on the strength of its premise alone. But there were a few things I did like about the movie. First off, Loretta Devine had an on-screen presence that was never short of arresting. I particularly liked her interactions with Omari Hardwick, even though half the time they had me laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The film is also blissfully short, clocking in at barely 90 minutes in length, so that it never managed to overstay its welcome. And while I wouldn't go as far as calling it scary, it did manage to sustain a level of dread throughout that runtime, which was just enough to keep my mind from wondering elsewhere or succumbing to boredom.

The problem with the movie is the fact that we've seen most of it before. Whether it was in the far superior 1973 version of The Wicker Man, or more recent fare like Midsommar, wherein an outsider finds himself trapped in a community with questionable religious practices. Also, there was a twist at the end of the movie that was so jarring that it almost became comical. I won't spoil what it was exactly, but you'll know once you see it, and chances are you'll be laughing too.

All that said, casual horror fans might still enjoy their time with Spell, provided they go in expecting a by-the-numbers horror film with some logic defying turn of events. But for anyone looking to make the most of spooky season this Halloween, you're probably better off looking elsewhere.

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