MRR Review: "Cassadaga"

Photo Credit: Archstone Distribution

MRR Review: "Cassadaga"

Rated: R (violence, disturbing images, sexual content, and language)
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi
Genre: Horror/Thriller

"Cassadaga" is written by Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley and directed by Anthony DiBlasi, who won Best Independent Feature at the 2010 Spike Scream Awards for his film, "Dread." Kelen Coleman stars as the main character, Lily, and Kevin Alejandro, who is known for such films as "Spun," "1992," and the TV series "True Blood," stars as Mike. Coleman does a superb job as Lily. In addition to her torment as the victim of a vengeful ghost, Lily is deaf. This brings on a completely new realm of terror for the main character and for the viewer.

Set in Cassadaga, Florida, "Cassadaga" follows a storyline similar to "Gothika," where the main character, Lily, must find the identity and method of a serial killer in order to be freed from the ghost that haunts her. Lily is alone in the world in more ways than one. Not only has she lost her entire family to death, but she is also deaf. She takes the path less traveled, literally, and finds herself in the sleepy town of Cassadaga.

After losing her sister, her only remaining family member, Lily decides to pursue her art in a small Florida town. She visits a psychic there while on a date, and she gets the chance to talk to her dead little sister. As Lily is leaving the psychic, she is warned that she needs guidance to deal with having met a malevolent spirit during the séance, but Lily's date declines the offer of help on Lily's behalf.

That very night Lily is visited by the ghost of a mutilated woman. It would be remiss not to mention that Cassadaga is considered the "psychic capital of the world" outside of filmdom. The otherworldly atmosphere of Cassadaga, Florida, definitely holds sway in the movie. The hot, humid southern ghost environment holds the audience captive as in so many southern gothic movies.

There is more at play in "Cassadaga" than just the setting. It's also a slasher film complete with a serial killer who turns his victims into real-life marionettes. The sounds of drilling and sawing as this maniacal killer sets about his tasks add immensely to the gory and horrific atmosphere of the film.

Lily's job, as far as the gruesome apparition is concerned, is to find out what happened to end her life prematurely. To add to the fantastical effect is the fact of Lily's hearing loss. In most horror and suspense movies, the character in danger hears sounds foretelling trouble. In "Cassadaga," Lily is deprived of any such foreshadowing, which makes the film all the more frightening.

Another anomaly in "Cassadaga" is that the killer is understood, as horrific as his actions are. The first scene of the movie explains his demented desires to an extent, so the audience is never left in the dark. Far from another run-of-the-mill slasher movie, "Cassadaga" has all the elements of a great horror film.

Lily finds a friend and lover in her art student's recently divorced father, Mike. He helps her through most of her travails, even though he hardly knows her. However, when it all comes down to the wire, Mike's divorce lawyer forces him to abandon Lily. Mike is fighting for custody of his young daughter and must stay true to his course. Unfortunately, this leaves Lily very much alone to face the fear that haunts her.

"Cassadaga" showcases great acting and is nothing like the average horror film one might expect. The actors are so believable; it is easy to forget that the movie is a slasher film at all. The lack of gruesome detail, found in movies like "Hostel," only adds to the suspense and surrealistic atmosphere of "Cassadaga."

The movie employs modern methods of communication, such as cell phones, WiFi, and Internet-ready devices. However, the fact that the main character is deaf delays any such forms of communication, which adds greatly to the intensely horrifying effects of the movie. It is commendable to director Anthony DiBlasi that overkill and overly gruesome scenes are not used in this film. The subtlety is what makes the movie so alluring.

With its great acting, wonderful plot, and refreshing direction, "Cassadaga" is a movie to look forward to seeing. It's not often such a well-directed film comes along. The melding of classic horror and modern-day crime thriller is not to be missed. "Cassadaga" is definitely a film that won't soon be forgotten.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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