My usual theater day is Saturday, and this past one just happened to coincide with Halloween. On my way to the cinema I had been talking on the phone (hands-free, of course) with one of my best friends from high school. In pulling into the parking lot, I noted to him the presence of a large crowd of people in costume lined up for something. I never quite figured out why. In his always off the wall way, as we said goodbye he wished that I did not get sacrificed. While me typing this should be evidence that I was not ritually killed in Seminole, Florida, on Halloween, his words proved eerily apropos for the movie I proceeded to watch, Spell.
Marquis T. Woods (Omari Hardwick) is a famously successful lawyer living in Atlanta, Georgia. At least I think it is Atlanta. That part was never made explicit. He soon receives news of his father’s passing, and thus he gathers up his family to travel back to where he grew up in the mountains of West Virginia. Because he is rich, owns a plane, and is apparently a pilot as well, they all fly together in his little Piper Cub. Unfortunately, they are met with a storm during the final leg of their journey and the plane crashes. This is where things get crazy. Marquis wakes up in a strange bed in the attic of a house seemingly fifty miles from everything. His foot looks to be injured and is bandaged. As he is coming to in walks the matriarch, Eloise (Loretta Devine). When Marquis begins besieging Eloise with questions about where he is and what happened to his family, she mysteriously dodges his queries and suggests that what he needs to focus on is getting better. The way he is going to get better is by taking care of his boogedy. Think voodoo doll and you get the picture, except this one is apparently made of little bits of Marquis, some too disgusting to mention. Your first thought might be why does he not escape? Three things are hampering these efforts. First, his injured foot is more than just an affect of the airplane crash, and as he later discovers his captors had driven a long, thick nail up into his leg through his heel (and watching him remove it . . . and then put it back in, is pure vomit material). Secondly, Eloise has a large, quite healthy minion named Lewis (Steve Mululu) who tackled Marquis once already like a linebacker. Thirdly, the dang boogedy. In Eloise’s hands, this object has the power to take away Marquis’ ability to talk or move. Still, Marquis is able to sneak around enough to gather that these people are part of some evil voodoo cult that seeks to heal people and achieve immortality through dark magic. It is suggested that Eloise herself is pushing 200 years old. As for their plans for Marquis, on the next full moon, which happens to be a blood moon (of course), they plan to sacrifice him and give his heart to Eloise’s husband, Earl (John Beasley). They picked the wrong Woods, though, because Marquis’ abusive father had also been involved in these dark arts, and despite Marquis supposedly not believing in this stuff anymore, he is able to counteract much of what they plan to do to him. Thus at the final ritual, when his family magically shows up alive, he is able to fool Eloise, trap her inside the barn by turning the tables on her, and burn her alive in the building. The Woods family then escape. Predictably, though, as the credits are about to roll, you see Eloise’s boogedy come back to life.
I really do not care for so-called scary movies. Hence I sat through most of Spell bored. The plot is not all that original either. It is basically Misery (1990) with voodoo as an added twist. But because it was Halloween, I guess I did not have a choice. No, really, there were no other options. All the new films this week were of the horror genre. Over the past few weeks leading up to this holiday, I had been seeing commercials for an insurance company that talks about how people do dumb things in horror movies. That is no different in this one. As I mentioned before, my first thought for Marquis was for him to simply escape, despite the potential barriers to doing so. There were other moments too. For instance, at one point Marquis manages to get a hold of a cell phone and calls the police. They agree to send an officer out to the house to investigate, but when the police arrive Eloise barges in and uses the boogedy to render him silent. He is then left to soundlessly scream from the attic window at his hoped for rescuer. Why not bang on the glass with your head? The hardest part for me was watching Marquis stick that spike back into his heel after he had removed it. This grotesque piece of metal is as long as a butcher’s knife and would make for a handy weapon to help with an escape. But no. He decides to continue to “lay low” and we are forced to watch him torture himself.
As a Catholic, the biggest thing I could not abide in Spell is the means by which Marquis did eventually triumph. There is a reason why the Church does not condone spells and magic, and it is sort of alluded to in the movie. Eloise uses salt to keep out demons. It is also the stuff that he uses to contain her in the barn as it burns to the ground. Hence, Eloise is in league with evil. And yet Marquis uses the same stuff in order to make a boogedy of Eloise. Such acts, no matter the motivation, are sinful because they contravene God. I suppose it might be easy for me to say that one should not dabble in such things no matter what as I have never been put into a similar life and death situation. Whatever the case, eternity is far more important.
It probably goes without saying that Spell is not a family friendly movie, unless you are like the Woods family and enjoy watching old women immolate in barn fires as they did at the end of the film. I hope you are not that family, anyway. Still, if you like scary movies I would not recommend this one as there is nothing new. You can also save yourself the trouble of having to see a man drive a spike into his own foot.