Some movies can get away with spilling their entire plotline in the opening few minutes. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End are the first two films that come to mind that do this without the audience even knowing until they watch either film again. In the case of the new wannabe-thriller Cassadaga, director Anthony DiBlasi could learn a thing a two from both Wright and anyone else who’s ever heard of foreshadowing. In the film world of Cassadaga, it doesn’t take a psychic to figure out exactly what’s going to happen over the way-too-long 112 minutes.
If there’s one thing really scary for characters in a horror film, it would be the loss of a sense. For poor Lily (Kelen Coleman), her handicap is being deaf. She can read lips and knows sign language of course, but if you can’t guess that her inability to hear isn’t going to be used to put her in danger, you need to watch more movies. Lily is a teacher who is on her way to adopting young Michele (Sarah Sculco) and after Michele graduates they are heading to Paris. Michele tells Lily about being bullied in school so Lily gives her a necklace with the Eiffel Tower on it that has a small dagger hidden inside. (The foreshadowing in this film is anything but subtle.)
After Michele is struck by a car and killed, Lily takes off to teach in Cassadaga, Florida—the “Psychic Capital of America” as we’re told when Lily drives by a sign. At her new school, Lily is taken in by Claire (Louise Fletcher) and given room and board, but told to just leave her grandson Thomas (Lucas Beck) be. Lily meet-cutes local EMT Mike (Kevin Alejandro), who is the father of one of her students. Soon enough, a night on the town winds up with a visit to Susan (Avis-Marie Barnes), and soon enough, Lily is seeing dead people with red herrings piling up by the minute. Oh, I forgot to mention the opening scene where a young boy is wearing a dress and playing with a marionette when he’s caught by his mom and told to play outside after cutting up his clothes and smashing the puppet. If you can’t guess who the killer is after this, maybe you missed the part where he cuts off his own penis. Dun dun dun!
In all honesty, the scenes featuring Lily and Mike are way better than the rest of the movie. Coleman and Alejandro make a nice couple and have good rapport. Something that will undoubtedly come in handy if the sequel the post-credit scene wants to happen ever comes to fruition. If there’s one thing we horror hounds know, it’s that nothing good ever comes from visiting psychics, however, if movie characters actually watched movies, we wouldn’t have as many to choose from ourselves. For a while, the film plays with a slight J-horror vibe, but keeps getting interrupted with some pretty basic torture porn subplots. We know the two storylines are going to collide just in time for the finale, but screenwriters Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley take way too long to get where we know the film is headed before we even popped in the DVD.
If Cassadaga has one thing going for it it would be that it’s slickly made and the cast is better than average. Unfortunately, the villain—given the name Geppetto—is never frightening, even if his means of dismemberment are more uncomfortable than usual. Maybe if they’d given us a reason to care for his plight, instead of just having mommy issues, we could have given a crap for the villain, which definitely would have been something new in a horror film. However, the payoff scene is bound and determined to turn this into another case of sequelitis, but I don’t think anyone will be clamoring for the further adventures of the ghost helping Lily.
Cover art and photo courtesy Archstone Distribution