When Dani, an innocent Southern girl, vacations to Los Angeles to evade her increasingly complicated life, she learns that escaping her past isn’t as easy as she hoped.
Voodoo is the full length debut of Tom Costabile who writes and directs the movie. Due to hit a few select theatres across North America on the 24th of February, it is a low budget, mainly enjoyable and slightly insane movie that offers quite a few moments that will have you open your mouth in shock while thinking “did they really just go there?”.
It stars Samantha Stewart (Days of Our Lives, The Mystery of Casa Matusita) as the main character Dani Lamb. Dani goes to visit her cousin Stacy Cole, played by Ruth Reynolds (The Guest House, Dessert) to escape from personal issues back home. We learn that she hasn’t really strayed from home too much and that she has been promising to come see her cousin for a long time. Her Dad, possibly reluctant to see her go, or just not particularly trusting, has given her a video camera to take with her upon which she plans to document the whole of her trip so she can watch it with him when she comes back home.
That camera becomes the viewpoint for the majority of the movie and while that would normally be a real cause for concern due to the amazing lack of quality in the found footage and live footage category, it doesn’t really have too much of a negative impact on the movie which is a relief.
Really Voodoo is a film of two very different halves. One half is designed to make you connect with the characters and their relationships, to make you care I suppose, while the other appears to be designed to hurt and shock you by dismantling the characters you now care about.
The first half of the film is a steady, maybe even slow, introduction to Dani and Stacy. Their characters are portrayed as slightly different with Dani trying to appear as relatively wholesome and Stacy seeming to be more of a rebellious wild child. Dani moves in with Stacy who house shares with 2 other guys called Spencer (Dominic Matteucci) and Trey (Daniel Kozul). Trey has a bit of a thing going with Stacy which then leaves Spencer with the task of getting with Dani. Dani, we learn though, has just left a troubled relationship. Okay, that is a bit of an understatement.
It turns out that Dani’s partner was, unbeknown to her, already married. Unfortunately he was also already married to either a complete crackhead or a voodoo priestess or maybe a mixture of both. Either way, that lovely lady came to Dani’s work and cursed her which is what resulted in Dani coming to LA for a bit if escapism. This does mean that she rebukes Spencer, though he takes it quite well.
It is a bit of a silly scene really as we see him rubbing her crotch quite furiously for some time while they are snogging. He then puts his hand up her top and she freaks out a bit saying she isn’t ready for anything just yet. I would have thought that would make more sense the other way round, you know, freaking when he went for her crotch after her breasts. We obviously get to see all this on her old school video camera which is placed nicely in front of them. I am not sure her Dad is going to appreciate this part of her filmed documentary.
Aside from this silly encounter, and one more featuring Ron Jeremy, the first half of the movie does a bloody good job of showing us two young girls out and about exploring LA. Their relationship is believable and their dynamic on screen is fun to watch. The camera is rarely shaky and it is interesting to see them visit some pretty cool places, especially The Rainbow which holds a special place in the hearts of all metal heads the world over for it’s connection to Lemmy Kilmister.
Unfortunately the film then adds in what I see as a pointless and silly scene that ruins any slowly building tension by having Ron Jeremy come over and offer Dani a place in a porno before the girls, Ron and a few extras are shown dancing stupidly while all facing the camera. It is comical but it comes at a time when we are learning about the girls relationship and the sudden bit of slapstick is unnecessary, especially in a film that has no designs on comic relief at any other point.
Anyway, Dani starts experiencing some odd moments, as do we through the medium of the camera which suggests to the viewer that her happy haven is about to become less pleasant. We have a market trader selling voodoo protection spells scream at Dani to go away and that she is cursed, we see Stacy’s body contort and fade while on camera and with Dani’s back is turned and then the girls hear word that Dani’s exes crazy missus is in town seeking revenge. That’s cool though – none of the girls believe in that voodoo nonsense anyway.
Cue the second part of the movie which very quickly takes a different route to the slow, relationship building first half of the movie. Almost as quickly as a Ron Jeremy scene can kill tension, Dani encounters some creepy events within the house as she gets tormented by a knocking sound, a slamming door and a very spooky black silhouette with blazing red eyes that chases her around her house. Dani is freaking out now, she is terrified and is begging for her friends to come and help her. As she runs out looking for them, we see the house has changed completely and is now littered with voodoo markings and signs pointing her towards hell. She encounters her friends eventually though probably wishes she hadn’t as they are mutilated or, in the case of Stacy, now a demon.
As she continues to get chased by her now demonic best friend, she falls and is no longer where she once was. It is hard to tell much at first due to the darkness and shaky camera of the live footage style but we soon realise Dani is now in a very messed up version of hell. It is from here that the film goes to places rarely seen on the screen as Dani suffers the ultimate revenge at the hand’s of a woman scorned. Hell maybe cast on a low budget and the demons may just look like dirty people with bad teeth but if you can see through this you get a glimpse of a truly hellish world full of rape, murder, mutilation, child abuse and pretty much any kind of horror you can think of.
We even get to see a baby be born by being ripped out of a woman and then instantly devoured by surrounding demons. Pretty sick right? How about a version of Dani’s mum being mutilated it front of her and then, a demon ripping her guts free, rubbing them in Dani’s face while uttering the immortal line “Smell your mother’s guts, you cunt”.
There isn’t much Dani doesn’t suffer. The only questions that remain are how much more can she take and how can she possibly escape?
This film does not shy away from shock and, seeing as it is meant to be a depiction of hell, so it shouldn’t. It does suffer a little from the low budget. There are times when the demons laughing and cackling is more irritating than creepy, especially Stacy’s. She reminds me a little, more annoying version of Evil Ed from the original Frightnight movie. The low budget also doesn’t help the film much when trying to portray Dani struggling against the demons. You can clearly see how gentle she is being when hitting them as she tries to fight them off, I understand why, but it doesn’t help the film much.
Having said that, I did enjoy the movie overall. I loved the slow and considerate build up of relationships in the first part of the film. The descent into hell is nothing short of chaotic and hell itself looks great and terrifying for such a low budget. I know I keep emphasising the budget but I have to really. If you cannot see through it, Voodoo will probably look terrible and feel silly to you. If you can though, you are in for a shocking and horrific time where there are no holds barred.
It suffers a little from pointless scenes like Ron Jeremy and the dance scene and also Stacy cackling but it is one of the better live camcorder movies I have seen. It has a solid soundtrack, some decent acting performances, from Samantha Stewart in particular, in the first half of the movie and she even does well in the second half of portraying fear by screaming constantly for half an hour.
Not bad at all. Good acting, more so in the first half, Voodoo is a well paced out movie that slowly builds up and up until chaos descends at the end. It doesn’t look glossy once we reach hell and while that does add atmosphere, it also requires a viewer to see passed budget decisions and enjoy the film for what it is, a story. If you can do that, you will find a dark and brutal horror that really does show that hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned.
The Final Score - 7/10
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