Sunday, February 19, 2017

Movie Review: VOODOO

VOODOO, set to release in theaters on February 24 across the U.S., hits the streaming channels via Freestyle Digital Media shortly after that.  So far, the biggest hype for this ‘found footage’ genre horror movie from HyperCube Films and Cicero-native Tom Costabile is the fact that the trailer for VOODOO has been banned from being shown on Facebook for being ‘to shocking and offensive’. That made me want to take a look at VOODOO for a movie review.

I normally try not to totally trash a movie I am reviewing if I don’t think it’s a good one. I always try to find something positive to say about it even if I firmly believe that a movie will eventually end up as ‘trash bin fodder’. However, in the case of VOODOO, the only positive thing I can say about it is that this movie is positively one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. I usually have a pretty high tolerance for trashy movies, but I can’t believe I sat through the whole thing waiting for it to make some sort of sense or for some semblance of a real plot to materialize.

VOODOO, written and directed by Tom Costabile, appears to have been built around a flimsy plot device rather than a fully fleshed out story.  Dani Lamb (Samantha Stewart) is a southern girl who takes a vacation to Los Angeles to visit her friend, Stacy Cole (Ruth Reynolds). Dani, of course, decides to document her whole trip to California with her video camera. She is also trying to get away from the complicated situation she got tangled up in back home.  That ‘complication’ is the plot device that drives the movie; Dani found herself unknowingly having an affair with the husband of a voodoo priestess who vows to make Dani’s life ‘hell’.

VOODOO opens with a disjointed and unexplained scene of an African-American woman, who is covered in mysterious symbols, preforming a ritualistic, sacrificial killing of a young white girl. After that it goes into soap opera-like scenes of Stacy and Dani girl-bonding, talking about guys and going out to get wasted at a bar where they meet real life porn star Ron Jeremy (playing himself).

Just when you are starting to get bored with all these soap opera-like scenes of girl talk and angsty bonding, VOODOO begins to get a little more like a horror movie when strange things start to happen around Dani at the house she is staying at with Stacy. Apparitions begin appearing along with disturbing drum like noises.

Those things are really cool and interesting, but then VOODOO inexplicably and completely devolves into a series of mindless, gory scenes of Dani being dragged through hell. Those scenes are, to me, made laughable because of bad special effects make up, cheesy acting by the ‘demonic horde’, and cheap sets. VOODOO tries for ‘shock value’ with a few scenes that I am sure are the ones that got the trailer banned from Facebook.  However, whatever shock value these gruesome scenes might have had is wasted by the simple fact that the filmmakers set the whole surreal ‘in hell’ thing like it’s a funhouse ride.

Dani and the audience get dragged from one ‘scary thing’ to another with little time to evaluate it, maybe in hopes that you won’t notice how cheap it looks. This is supposed to be a ‘found footage’ type horror movie, so it’s all seen through the lens of a video camera. That part works well when Dani is hanging out with her friend Stacy or setting the camera on the night stand to narrate into it, but when it follows her on her trip to hell without any explanation of who is videotaping, it becomes completely unsustainable as a movie concept.

The only good thing I can say about VOODOO is that the characters of Dani and Stacy are played by actresses with decent talent who do their best with what they are given. Samantha Stewart, in particular, has a real future as a ‘scream queen’ as she certainly did a lot of screaming in this movie.  I would say, if you want to see VOODOO, don’t let my review stop you. But I sure wish I hadn’t wasted time on this movie.

Marla’s Score: 2/10

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