Director: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine .USA. 1h 31m
18 years on from Ian Softleys powerful hoodoo thriller Skeleton Key (2005), the time and tested horror had graduated into Spell, which is a strange name for a rootworking movie but nonetheless no one will be surprised when the incantations, grimoire and ritual work is let loose. However this darkened story has closer ties with Misery (1990) and the Hills Have Eyes (1977/2005).
On paper it definitely works in a more thrilling way, however the roots of Spell is built up around an affluent black family who are shaken up when the patriarchs estranged father passes away, the family take their own light aircraft out to rural Kentucky to pay their respects, initially they land at a petrol/gas station nearby the area and this is when the culture shock begins for them, the attendant is making a mojo bag and tells Marquis (Hardwick) …..
” Slavery is over, pump your own damn gas”
After this jumpy start the family head off again but this time they encounter a storm that sends them into a gripping hell. Marquis, the father awakes along in the attic of a eccentric black family, one who, on the surface appear to be helping him heal, the matriarch, a curiously friendly Eloise (Devine) doesn’t hide her methods are partly home grown, and her secluded home , tucked away off the beaten track might as well be set in the 1800’s with no tech and the family vehicle is a horse and cart.
Eloise introduces Marquis to a Boogety, a magical doll she made from parts of him, something to keep him safe and help him heal but that’s not the only thing Eloise has frankensteined together, as Marquis notices at one of her spiritual healing sessions, but there’s more than just old fashioned conjure and root working going on here, but for what gain?
Slowly, through flashbacks the origins of Marquis are revealed, the terrible childhood that led him to become a successful entrepreneur and self made man, lessons he hasn’t finished learning. the film begins to become a Jordan Peele-esque inspiration tale of caution, there’s a touch of social commentary , relating to those who were left behind and holding onto oppressive nostalgia maybe?
The final act of the movie is very different from the rest, but there’s a highlight of the second most violent foot scene in any movie after Misery and it’s probably worth watching for that alone
Is it just another skeleton key, for some it will feel that way? Does it demonize black tribal magic, most probably but do we just need more hoodoo/voodoo movies until someone gets it right? Well heck yeah, so keep it coming and we’ll keep on watching, who knows maybe one day Hoodoo movies might eventually get accepted into the folk horror genre.. Like it should be!!!
Related: Skeleton Key (2006). Misery (1990). Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Lists: Who do the voodoo ?