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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

DVD Review: A Voodoo Possession

A Voodoo Possession is a somewhat insane and ridiculous horror film about voodoo and bad memories and broken promises and guilt. By the way, the title of the film on screen is A Voodoo Possession, while the title on the box is simply Voodoo Possession.

The film has a very cool opening. A woman is going through an old box of stuff in her basement. She sees a photo of her two sons, some crayons and an old box of severed fingers she’d clearly forgotten about. But then she says, “You’re not real,” takes a moment, then looks again and sees that they’re now crayons. But the madness hasn’t left. Her son Aiden calls down to her, but she tells him to stay upstairs with his brother, Cody. Then she tells the thing in the shadows to leave her boys alone, to take her instead. Is it all in her head? We’re not sure, but either way it's creepy. One of her sons, without her knowing, steps downstairs just in time to see her kill herself in a very gruesome manner. It’s pretty awesome. I’d never seen a suicide like that one in a film. And that’s the opening sequence.

An unlikely news reporter, Bree (Kerry Knuppe), does a piece on Cody, now grown up, an American doctor who has vanished in Haiti along with earthquake relief money he was in charge of. (Though the money seems important, it is barely mentioned again in the film, and it’s unclear just why he was in charge of these funds.) Dr. Cody Chase (David Thomas Jenkins) founded and ran a mental health hospital in Haiti, and has been missing for three weeks.

Meanwhile, his brother Aiden (Ryan Caltagirone) has lost his job and is trying to refill a prescription over the phone as he packs his possessions to move out of his condo. “What next?” he asks. Bree, the tabloid reporter, answers by showing up and telling him that her program wants the two of them to go to Haiti for a more extensive piece on Cody. He’s not interested, and reminds her of a falling out that occurred five years ago when she was present. She tells him, “The past can only haunt you if you let it.” But later as he looks at an old photo, a voice says, “Take care of your brother.” So something is haunting him, whether he’s letting it or not.

Though that turns out to be a nightmare. He’s suffering from nightmares these days. But Bree shows up again with some more pills for him, and he agrees to go to Haiti to help look for his brother.

The mental hospital is a sufficiently creepy setting. It’s established that it was an abandoned building when Cody found it. Some of it has been fixed up, but a lot of it is still boarded up. The lighting in this building is poor (I’d go a bit mad myself if I had to say there). Dr. Yveline Montase is the hospital director, having taken over after Cody went missing. She tells them that there was no real investigation into Cody’s disappearance because the village doesn’t embrace western medicine. She adds, rather cryptically, that they’ll find the village has many secrets. (By the way, they don’t find that at all because they never really leave the hospital setting, so the village itself doesn’t enter into the picture.)

Aiden receives a note and a computer file from an anonymous person who wishes to help the tabloid program investigation. The computer file has lots of video with Cody and a man named Kross (Danny Trejo), in which they discuss a project to use voodoo to help the patients. We learn that people think the patients aren’t crazy, but are rather possessed by voodoo spirits. And judging by the title of the film, they might be right. Aiden and we, the audience, are given lessons in voodoo, complete with drawings of various voodoo spirits. And a witch doctor, Papa J’s assistant, shows up to help them and give them more information on voodoo. (For a horror film, there certainly is a lot of explaining of things.)

Suddenly Aiden is back in his childhood basement, with the Tormentor, the night terror that scared Cody and then more recently Aiden. The witch doctor tells him, “Aiden, you traveled into the spirit world.” Aiden asks, “How?” Indeed: how? Well, the spirits are using his memories to draw him and Cody together, according to the witch doctor. It’s kind of ridiculous, but fun.

Anyway, they hold some kind of voodoo ritual to communicate with the spirits, and become caught partially in the spirit world. There are more explanations, but at this point it’s basically all craziness. You just have to sit back and enjoy it as they have visions from their past and are being punished for their broken promises.

The witch doctor says, “Aiden’s memories of Cody trigger his descent into the spirit world. So we will start our search for Bree in Aiden’s memories of Cody.” Aiden, speaking for all of us watching the film, says, “I don’t understand.” So we get more explanations from the witch doctor. And what it means is Aiden has to relive that memory from five years ago, the one alluded to early in the film.

This horror film is really more about a fucked up family than about voodoo, with elements of sexual abuse, murder, dissecting corpses, alcohol abuse and of course suicide. And in that way it’s quite a bit different from other horror films. But as each new element is revealed, I have to wonder how much of this Bree already knew. She doesn’t seem to give any indication of surprise at learning about her boyfriend’s past. (She and Aiden were dating.) Does nothing faze this chick?

There is some intentional humor in this film, mostly with the character Duane, the cameraman of the expedition and also often the voice of reason. But a lot of this film is unintentionally funny, even the final line, which made me burst out laughing: “He made his big brother proud.” But partially because of that, it’s kind of an enjoyable film. Consider it a midnight movie, to watch with a bucket of popcorn, some friends and quite a bit of alcohol.

Special Feature

The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes feature, with interviews with most of the cast and a lot of the crew. Among those interviewed are producer Mark Burman, special effects make-up person Barney Burman, production designer Kalie Acheson, and cast members Ryan Caltagirone, Danny Trejo, Kerry Knuppe, Abe Spigner, Chaterine Kim, and David Thomas Jenkins. Writer/director Walter Boholst says he wanted to deal with human drama in this film, particularly guilt which we all feel. He also says it was a twelve-day shoot. Holy moly, that might be the craziest thing about this film!

A Voodoo Possession was written and directed by Walter Boholst, and is scheduled to be released on DVD on January 14, 2014 through Image Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment.

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