Tagline: There’s a new puppet master…
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Cast: Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, J Larose, Louise Fletcher and Rus Blackwell
Distributor: G2 Pictures
Release date: 16th April 2012
An old friend of mine and I used to have a saying – “It’s a Ronseal movie”. What that meant is that it does exactly what it says on the tin. You’ll never be surprised by a Ronseal movie, but you’ll always get a solid example of the genre. Well, Cassadaga is decidedly varnish-stained.
Cassadaga deals with the trauma of a grieving, deaf woman being haunted by an evil spirit which is forcing her to hunt a deadly killer. If all of that reads as ludicrous, the film actually does a pretty smooth job of holding it together within its own reality. In fact, the main problem with Cassadaga is that it is perhaps too smooth, often feeling as though it has all been experienced before in other horror films. Ghosts appearing in mirrors? Check. Serial killer with sexual perversions? Check. Friends doubting the protagonist’s sanity? Check. None of these are done badly within the film, but they are all overly familiar. Cassadaga may have tried to fit too many genre-elements in to its own detriment.
Sadly, the most interesting aspect of the film is also the most under-developed. The heroine being deaf could have made for really unique scares via the use of auditory cues. Imagine moments where the heroine cannot hear someone sneaking up on her – the sound cuts out as we enter her world, knowing that we are silently being stalked… but these never take place. In fact the disability has no impact on the film at all. Besides from fleshing out the character a little it seems to have no purpose. This is even more frustrating when it is revealed early on that the killer uses sound as a tool to aid in his kidnappings. A natural confrontation of the sound-based attack on an immune deaf girl could practically write itself, but bafflingly it never factors into proceedings.
Sound is actually 50% of the movie experience. Horror films that really focus on crafting the sound succeed in an almost subtle, unconscious level – Alien, Eraserhead, The Shining. OK, I was never expecting Cassadaga to be in their league, but a horror film about a deaf woman could at least make some aural effort in either the script or the sound engineering.
If all this sounds overly negative, it is not meant to be. Whilst Cassadaga undeniably wastes its own potential, it is still actually is successful in creating a unique, interesting villain. I have watched a lot of horror films (I’m even technically an expert if you count my University dissertation on Phantasm!) but the torturous desire of this killer was truly original and horrible to myself. Also a very brief special note needs to be made to acknowledge the make-up. This is exceptionally good for a lower budget film and helps add to the overall impact of the film.
So a solid film deserves a solid score. But before I mark Cassadaga I would just recommend a film that makes much more out of sound-based slasher-tension, which is Mute Witness (1996). Check it out.
Rating: 3 stars
P.S. My Ronseal friend is no longer with us… He moved to Wales. I guess somebody has to.