This voodoo version of “Misery” has its ups and downs.
Last July, I panned the “Fatal Attraction” rip-off “Fatal Affair,” for using an African-American theme as an excuse to be made. And now, I’m writing my review for the African-American version of “Misery” entitled “Spell.” Only, instead of the abductor being a crazed book fan, she’s a voodoo witch. And it actually does a good-if-not-great job at altering the Stephen King story with familiar themes and thrilling moments.
I consider this a B-movie for how director Mark Tonderai and writer Kurt Wimmer present the horrors and I found myself enjoying the plausible and implausible aspects of “Spell.”
The movie stars Omari Hardwick as a wealthy lawyer and family man named Marquis T. Woods, who ran away from his town in Appalachia to escape from the clutches of his abusive father (Ri-Karlo Handy). Now when word gets out that he passed away, his wife Veora (Lorraine Burroughs) urges him and their two kids-Ty (Kalifa Burton) and Samsara (Hannah Gonera)-to return to his hometown to pay their final respects. They fly in their plane, which gets caught in a storm, and the next morning, Marquis wakes up in the attic, and meets the elderly witch Eloise (Loretta Devine), her husband Earl (John Beasley), and their giant mute son Lewis (Steve Mululu).
He desperately wants to find his family, and the old lady can’t provide him with the necessities he needs for help. In fact, she plans to trap him in the attic with a voodoo doll of him watching him. This doll, known as a boogity doll, is made from his blood and skin, and there’s a cult segment, where they murder a cat, and cut out its eyes and tongue, so their members can either talk or see.
The scenes with his family are too generic and meandering for me to praise. The mom has to be the stricter parent, and the kids have to be the millennial types. And if you’ve seen “Misery” or read the book, you might find other sections of “Spell” to be obvious. But once you get through these negatives, you’re able to see its wicked intentions as well as its WTF moments. These are the kind when you think “ouch,” “oooohhhh,” “no way” or “come one.” It all depends on how you view them.
I also admired the respective performances from Hardwick and Devine for their abilities to rip off iconic characters and transcend them into different territories. In this case, Hardwick must be the “Get Out” hero, while Devine is the witch with the nice lady act. You have to be an idiot to not see she’s the bad guy, and she does a solid job at portraying one. And Hardwick rises to the occasion and never misses the mark.
The better horror films out this week are “The Craft: Legacy,” the entertaining sequel to the 1996 cult hit, and “Come Play,” the emotional and chilling flick about an autistic boy being stalked by a monster. But “Spell” is still a decent one, because of its ability to take some risks by ripping off classics, and spiking them with various results. And as an African-American thriller, it has something in common with “Bad Hair.” It has the kind of narrative and pay-off that “Antebellum” failed to provide.
Parts of me say: it lacks the depth and patience of “Misery,” while the other parts say: it has its moments. I’m sorry if I keep saying “moments” in this review, but that’s really what I liked about the movie. And also the leads keep you involved and have you rooting for the hero to get out alive. I know that sounds formulaic, but it’s usually the case.
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