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CASSADAGA
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi

Starring:
Kevin Alejandro
Kelen Coleman
Rus Blackwell
Hank Stone
Louise Fletcher

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
After a failed attempt trying to communicate with her dead sister (Sarah Sculco), hearing-impaired art teacher Lily (Kelan Coleman) winds up conjuring up a far nastier spirit, one of a woman murdered in the past. The plot manages to involve her home, one of her students from the past who wound up disappearing, and a really strange puppetmaker.
Is it good movie?
This little murder mystery wound up being something quite different from what I expected. And even to call it a murder mystery is fairly misleading. This is a somewhat confused ghost story/murder mystery with a hefty dose of pepper mixed in. For example- our killer figure in this film is a beast named Gepetto, a monsterous presence whose fixation on building human puppets through the removal and re-attachment of limbs (though the guy's story isn't explained as well as I might have liked). The horror elements can feel strange at times (I'll mention that later), but there's plenty of moments reminiscent of the Sixth Sense (the hidden boo scares), plenty of awful and gruesome visions, chase scenes and more.

Some people might not enjoy the fact that Lily's all tied up in a romantic subplot here too, but it really didn't bother me (didn't hurt that the girl is simply stunning, perhaps!). I thought it was actually a little endearing that the dude was a single dad and a paramedic too (and the fact that they meet when Lily offers free art classes to his young daugher), the whole thing didn't turn me off. At least it's sort of different and good-natured for once. Yes, the guy's a bit generic and their relationship takes a bit of an abrupt turn through the film, but it's nothing unforgiveable.

As criticism, I'd have to say that the horror elements of the story can be a bit jarring against the rest of the film at times. It's hard to explain without giving too much away, but there are times when the horror elements seem to come out of nowhere and just don't exactly mix in with the vibe the film presents. At no point does Cassadaga give in to cheap reliance on gore or anything, but I just felt a few scenes with Gepetto seemed to jive with the film's vibe- maybe it's just me! The whole thing comes off sort of like a Ghost Whisperer meets Criminal Minds meets Friday the 13th. Sure, it ain't super original, but it makes for a relatively entertaining mish-mash nonetheless.

The acting and directing are both quite good. Anthony Diblasi crafts a story that is character-focused, and creates a relatively solid and creepy vibe for the film to work with. Kelan Coleman is quite good as Lily (though some may be bothered by her deaf character's ability to speak so well),  and Kevin Alejandro's love interest is decent.

This little hybrid-horror film doesn't knock it out of the park, but certainly manages to build a fair amount of tension which leads to a pretty exciting finale (which I won't spoil, but the actual logic behind it seems somewhat silly). I would certainly call it fair to say that there's enough to keep you interested here- decent acting, a cool villain, some good effects, jump scares and a so-so mystery.
Video / Audio
Video: 16 x 9 Widescreen

Audio: 5.1 Dolby Surround
The Extras
A trailer!
Last Call
This slow-build independent horror film looks good and generally works well. It feels like a bigger film than it is, and is acted well; although it may not totally succeed in mixing everything perfectly, Cassadaga manages to be an entertaining watch.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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