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I was very much looking forward to seeing this film when I saw the trailer for it, it looked like it was right up my alley. I love a horror film that centers on mysterious occult elements and uses creepy imagery well. From what they used in the trailer, this looked as if it had those things, PLUS the ever talented Loretta Devine. Well after just seeing Spell, I can say that it does for sure have impressive moments where occult mystery is used well, and yes Loretta Devine gives a worthy performance, BUT the high quality of some scenes doesn’t permeate the whole film unfortunately.
Loretta Devine really does give a strong performance here as the main antagonist. Devine has an overall calm demeanor for most of the film and that makes her presence that much more unsettling whenever she enters a scene. She finds a nice tone that works well for her character and sticks to it, there was never a moment where I thought she was off.
Omari Hardwick also gets put in the positive category for his skilled lead performance. I had not seen Hardwick before and this was a good introduction. He makes his character empathetic and strong, which is important for him as the lead to be able to pull off. Another strong aspect of Spell is its use of creepy atmosphere and occult elements in certain scenes. There are numerous scenes that work very well and are intriguing because they use these tools well.
The script falters in the very beginning by failing to give us a strong opening. This film really does hit the ground running and jumps into everything too quickly. I would have appreciated a little more of a foundation. There’s also several plot details that I felt weren’t given enough focus. There is one twist that’s eventually revealed that I thought would for sure have some sort of impact on the trajectory of the story, but to my shock, it didn’t. They reveal something big and then don’t capitalize on it which I found very strange and misguided.
A better script would have found interesting ways to tie these plot details into the overall story instead of letting them go to waste. On the positive side, the script does include some well written scenes between Devine and Hardwick that add to the creep factor. Devine is given some nice lines. I also thought the details of the voodoo rituals were somewhat intriguing so I applaud the creativity there. This script really is a mixed bag, I think with another draft it could have been a good bit better.
The story just needed a little bit of a stronger outline for which to be told. You can’t simply drop potentially game changing things here and there and then not use them to benefit the overall plot. By the end I thought back to those scenes where interesting plot twists were revealed and all I thought was: that wasn’t even needed. After they’re revealed, the film just continues on as normal and ends up following a familiar horror path. There’s nothing wrong with following a somewhat familiar path, but don’t follow one after you’ve teased something better.
The final thing I want to mention is the lead characters family, his wife and kids. The teenage actors needed a little more life in their performances and unfortunately I didn’t think their chemistry as a family was as strong as it needed to be. With a stronger beginning, that may have been different.
Spell features fine lead performances by Devine and Hardwick and some of the occult plot details are intriguing, but the script can’t utilize these details properly. With a stronger script, this could have been a lot better.
One of the top 3 movies of the year?
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