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DVD Review: ‘Cassadaga’

★★☆☆☆
Dull, nasty and almost entirely devoid of original ideas, Anthony DiBlasi’s festival-only/straight-to-DVD horror Cassadaga (2011) may well symbolise everything that is wrong with modern horror cinema. Essentially a clumsy mish-mash of supernatural horror and torture porn tropes, DiBlasi’s second feature has little-or-no idea of what it wants to be, reflected in the fact that the lead actors appear oblivious as to just what type of film they’re apparently starring in.

Cassadaga tells the story of Lily Moore (Kelen Coleman), a kindly semi-deaf teacher who seeks the aid of the local spiritual community after the sudden death of her ‘sister’ Michelle (Sarah Sculco). A hastily-arranged séance instead draws the attention of the vengeful spirit of a murdered young woman, intent on haunting Lily until she brings justice to her killer. Simultaneously handling her bereavement whilst also engaging in a cat-and-mouse hunt for a sadistic serial killer labelled by the press as ‘Geppetto’, Lily’s life swiftly spirals out of control, leading her to question her own sanity.

From its Dario Argento-esque promotional poster (http://imdb.to/HEBQiJ) through to its faux-giallo, faux-Saw subject matter (there’s even a bit of Norman Bates-style motherly abuse/cross-dressing towards the beginning thrown in for good measure), everything about Cassadaga smacks of a cheap, reverse-engineered, horror-by-numbers. DiBlasi seems keen to reference his influences, but frequently tramples over the divide between referencing and unequivocal plagiarism. Worse still is the fact that it commits the cardinal sin for any horror – it simply isn’t scary.

Perhaps the film’s main saving grace is its competent cinematography, thankfully forgoing the all-too-fashionable found footage formula. Also strangely enjoyable is a bizarre, extremely unethical romance between Lily and the soon-to-be-divorced father of one of her students (True Blood’s Kevin Alejandro, once again playing a medical practitioner), yet this may only be due to the fact that it helps distract oneself from the abysmal narrative.

Make no mistake – you won’t see many horrors this year as devoid of ideas and low on quality as Cassadaga (the indefensible, hateful The Devil Inside [2012] aside) but unlike the latter, its labouring, maggot-infested heart at least appears to be in vaguely the right place.

Daniel Green