Cassadaga (DVD)

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Cassadaga (DVD)Starring Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, Rus Blackwell, Hank Stone, Louise Fletcher, J LaRose, Amy LoCiero, Christina Bach

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi

Distributed by Archstone Distribution

Cassadaga is the sophomore effort from director Anthony DiBlasi (Dread), and he was given an interesting script from first-time feature length film writers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley to work with. Suffice to say, there is a lot going on in Cassadaga.

The film revolves around young art teacher Lily Morel (Coleman), who is trying to recover from the death of her younger sister, Michele. Lily (who happens to be deaf) was raising Michele after the death of their mother. This info comes after an introductory scene that seems unrelated to Lily’s story at the time, which will have even the most hardened horror viewer gasping.

Lily moves to Cassadaga, hoping the spirituality of the town known as “the psychic capital of the world” will help her deal with the loss of her sibling. Unfortunately, things only get worse after Lily visits a psychic, attempting to contact her sister. A vengeful spirit invades the séance and begins to haunt the already troubled girl. And while all this is going on, a demented serial killer nicknamed Geppetto is also operating in Cassadaga, adding additional meat for the audience to sink their teeth into.

However, as all of this is unfolding, the film seems disjointed. On one hand we have Lily dealing with this horrific spirit haunting her, and then the next scene involves Geppetto working on one of his human subjects. Both stories are interesting but feel so completely unrelated that it disrupts the flow.

Thankfully, as Cassadaga rolls on, the film begins to come together. The runtime feels a bit long, but the movie gets much better as the stories converge. And nothing feels forced when the stories do merge. The ghost story part of Cassadaga actually fits quite nicely with the serial killer part. The majority of the movie focuses on Lily. While her life falls apart around her, she looks for support from her new boyfriend, Mike (Alejandro). But viewers may find themselves wanting more scenes with the serial killer. The Lily/Mike story is decent, but nothing we haven’t seen before. Geppetto is an interesting character and a unique type of killer, played intensely by… well, let’s not spoil the surprise.

Cassadaga takes a turn into more of a mystery/whodunit style for a portion of the film. This leads to a surprise ending that audiences will see coming a mile away. But the performance of the tortured serial killer makes you forget that you saw the surprise coming from Orlando. Geppetto is seriously disturbed, and the filmmakers also give us a look at a bit of his backstory, making him even more interesting.

So after starting choppily, Cassadaga does hit a nice stride. Even Coleman’s performance seems to improve as the movie rolls on. She does a nice job in the lead role. Alejandro is also very good in the nice guy boyfriend role that we’re used to seeing him in on “True Blood.” Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher (that’s right, Nurse Ratched herself) appears in an amusing role as the pot-smoking proper lady hosting Lily’s stay in Cassadaga. The ghost girl (played by Amy LoCiero) keeps the audience on their toes with some really effective jump scares. The F/X work, while not outstanding, is definitely serviceable.

What’s not so great is the lack of special features offered in this release. There’s no commentary, featurette, interview, or trailer. A shame, too, as there’s a lot I would have enjoyed hearing about with regard to the making of this film.

In the end, Cassadaga is a movie that starts with a couple of shocks, rumbles out of the gate, wobbles a bit, then gets it all together to become a fun ride. There is a lot of stuff going on here… a lot… but director DiBlasi manages to weave it all together into a pretty good film that’s not at all a bad way to kick off the new year.

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3 1/2 out of 5

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Scott Hallam

We all go a little mad sometimes...haven't you?