Spell (2020), Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, (Horror Movie Review)

Last Updated on December 21, 2021

PLOT: After his father’s passing, Marquis flies out to his funeral only to crash land somewhere in the Appalachian region. Things don’t get any better when he awakens to find out he’s being held captive by a polite and charming Hoodoo specialist.

LOWDOWN: To be honest, SPELL (WATCH IT HERE) wasn’t on my radar. Not knowing much about it, except for its generic title, I gave this indie flick a sporting chance and hoped for the best. I don’t know much about Hoodoo and, up until now, had thought it was the same as Voodoo; ridiculous, I know, but you keep on learning, and so this may be my first filmic experience to deal with this subject matter. With plane crashes, Hoodoo dolls, and some hearty home cooking, did SPELL use its sorcery and win me over? F*ck ya, it did!

Marquis (Omari Hardwick), a wealthy lawyer who, along with his family, has spoiled himself with the finer things in life, gets a call about his father’s passing. However, he hasn’t spoken to him in years and has since moved on from that abusive relationship. But for the sake of closure, flies himself and his family out in the Appalachian region to attend the funeral. After a nasty storm comes along, causing the plane to crash, Marquis wakes up in a bed located in an old, dusty attic recovering from his injuries. Disoriented and hurt, he realizes he’s being held captive by a crazy yet kind old lady who did him a solid by making him his very own Hoodoo doll. Yep, nothing to worry about here.

SPELL is the type of ’80s affair that I sorely miss. No, not the baiting nostalgia that has been overrun and beat to death by the likes of STRANGER THINGS (still love that first season, though) but in that unique singular vision way. SPELL is an unbelievable story grounded in a wild topic. It’s not a well know IP or a sequel/remake and I’m all for it. Having a sprinkle of MISERY with that SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW vibe, I love director Mark Tonderai’s approach to the Hoodoo magic. Grounded in a real (and f*cking sad) truth, and though I wouldn’t call it outright sinister in SPELL, I do enjoy that it’s a prevalent force that the “city-boy” can’t believe in. Marquis is powerless in almost every situation because of the back-woods magic he refuses to acknowledge.

The real MVP is sweet old Eloise herself, Loretta Devine. The villain who’s keeping Marquis bedridden. Devine lays on that southern charm and no-nonsense attitude you’d get from your Nana over Christmas. As Eloise essentially tortures our protagonist, she does it with such a sassiness that you almost believe she’s here to help (spoiler, she’s not). Devine has a sly sense of comedic timing that keeps Eloise perfectly balanced between ominous and delightful. Omari Hardwick’s Marquis is basically the only other prominent character besides Elosie and her “too old for this shit” husband Earl and carries this film firmly on his shoulders. Hardwick excels as a comfortable man who hasn’t had to face many hardships since his youth. Hardwick sells his city-dwelling Yankee journey to hero as smooth as his baritone voice, with a little commentary on wealth and forgetting one’s origins tossed in for an extra punch.

 Any gripes, you ask? Well, Eloise and Earl’s sinister plan was over-explained. I got the gist once certain plot elements were revealed, but SPELL felt the need to add some very awkward and forced exposition. At times it felt like overkill and took me out of what was going on. Trust your audience and, hell, leave a few things vague if need be. Hoodoo is magic, and I can figure out the rest, but having books and passages detailing every part of the plan was a bit goofy. There are a few shots that used some cheap-looking CGI, which highlighted the small budget. It wasn’t make-or-break but was a tad distracting when you are engrossed in a scene.

GORE: This has a couple of bloody parts. We get a wounded foot, a gorging, and some fire-play.  It doesn’t go too far but hits it home when it needs to.

BOTTOM LINE: SPELL isn’t a long film, so too much detail will take the fun out of the experience, but this is dark and twisted in all of the right spots. Loretta Devine gives a career-defining turn as the menacing grandma Eloise while John Beasley cracked me up as her bickering husband Earl. SPELL is tense, at times strangely funny, and a bit bad-ass towards the end. Mark Tonderai knocked it out of the park with SPELL, and I hope this gets the visibility it deserves. The Iceman says, check it out!

SPELL comes to VOD on October 30th, 2020.

The Iceman



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