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New Release Review (VOD) - VOODOO

A woman is plunged into hell.






Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Tom Costabile

Starring: Samantha Stewart, Ruth Reynolds, Dominic Matteucci, Ron Jeremy


Voodoo, from writer/director Tom Costabile opens with a poorly shot murder of a child (whose 'dead' body moves) and goes down hill from there. It tells the story of New Orleans ingĂ©nue Dani (Samantha Stewart – ok), who arrives at cousin Stacy’s (Ruth Reynolds – also ok) LA pad for a month of R and R after recently ending it with her married boyfriend. It is implied, via an overheard, overwrought and over-long phone conversation, that her ex boyfriend’s partner may be tangled in voodoo, but Dani goes to pains to explain she is not afraid of all that and doesn’t believe in it.

There are drawn out sequences of Dani ‘letting her hair down’ by hitting LA night spots (one featuring a pointless and odd encounter with porn legend Ron Jeremy) or going on a, gasp, walk with a boy! She sees Venice Beach, talks to a psychic (who screams at her to leave the stall), and swims in the hotel pool before things abruptly go batshit crazy and she is plunged, literally, into hell.



This is shot found footage style, with all the bonuses and limitations that come with that sub-genre. The issue I have here is that the rules are not strictly adhered to. When the film changes course halfway through proceedings it seemingly abandons the parameters of found footage even though it perseveres with that ‘look’.

Unfortunately this film goes from tedium to 100% over the top mayhem too quickly for the audience to keep up. There is really no subtext here, nor subtlety. The actors try their best but aren't given much to work with besides screaming at Halloween masks or having endlessly tiresome conversations about people we never meet or places we never see.

There is very little of coherence in the storyline, which is supposedly taking the ‘woman scorned’ revenge to the very top level.

The found footage style genre is, as previously explained, not used to great effect here and is missing a framing device to give it a sense of purpose.



The second half of the film is weird, loud, ugly and very, very long, seemingly pointless or fails to explain who's filming, what Dani is supposed to do and why we as an audience are watching something so nonsensical and monochromatic. What is the connection between this vision of what I presume is hell, and voodoo? You have two characters from New Orleans but the basics of voodoo principles and beliefs are not fleshed out; the Voodoo queen Marie Laveau and the historical New Orleans angle of voodoo is not discussed. In fact the whole voodoo theme is not explored properly and so the film ends up feeling like a hot mess – everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at it from over the top gore, demons, rape, possessions, childhood tragedies relived, and no clear thread to tie them all together. Voodoo is a rich and fascinating subject with more than enough to create a creepy film filled with dread; to fumble the ball like this is not only disappointing but a real shame.

Both Dani and her cousin are obnoxious and unlikable so it's hard to muster up any concern about their predicament, particularly seeing as how the foreshadowing was completely muddled and clumsily handled. What was happening on the beach? Who was that demon glimpsed in the night vision? Why was so little time spent on actual character development? Why not include more creepy scenes in the buildup to create a sense of anxiety? And why was Stacy reduced to a poorly made-up demon growling in a doorway at the 45-minute mark?



I am truly perplexed by this movie. It fails at the basic beginning, middle and end structure of classic storytelling and felt like a meandering jumble. What was the actual story? Perhaps an explanation was given as a throwaway line in one of the very long superfluous dialogue scenes during which I may have closed my eyes a little.. or perhaps it really was meant to be her own private hell with demons and voodoo and flashbacks? Who knows?!

The found footage rules were abandoned midway through without reason, the CGI was obvious and cheap, and the final denouement was confusing as hell. In the end it felt like the cinematic equivalent of walking through a Halloween haunted house, with players leaping out at you but unable to touch you; to paraphrase Shakespeare - lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nope, not good.

Voodoo is available on VOD February 24th.





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