Directed by Anthony DiBlasi.
Starring Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro and Louise Fletcher.
A deaf girl, grieving over her sister’s death, attempts to contact her in a séance and is instead connected with a vengeful spirit of a girl who was murdered in a horrific manner.
After her sister’s untimely death, Lily goes to Cassadaga University to carry on her work as an artist, as well as teach young children. On a full scholarship and a place to live, Lily, now completely alone as her mother died some years ago of cancer, is coping with the loss of her family.
It doesn’t take her long to meet nice guy Mike, divorced father of one of Lily’s students. The two instantly hit it off, and she agrees to go and meet some of his friends. They drink, they laugh, and conversation soon turns to the fact that Cassadaga is well known for its psychic mediums. For a lark, the group decide to go and meet one of the best known ones, and so Lily puts herself forward to do a séance, hoping to communicate with her dead sister. It’s a success, but not without problems – a vengeful spirit makes itself known, and Lily soon becomes plagued by visions and torment.
Whilst all this is going on, Lily and Mike gather suspicions about the disappearance of the previous tenant of Lily’s house, who mysteriously went missing. Lily’s neighbour Thomas, whose grandmother owns the university and gave her the property she lives in, is the main suspect. He’s introvert, and anyone that’s seen a horror film knows that the introvert either did something wrong, or is at least the first to be accused.
The scene I enjoyed the most in this movie is a scene where Lily has to break into Thomas’ room to try and find evidence of his wrongdoings. It’s a particularly good scene because the tension is built up well. As Lily is deaf, she cannot hear when Thomas returns, and instead must rely on her mobile phone vibrating with a text from Mike to warn her to get the hell out – but her phone falls out of her pocket, and for a brief time we are left hoping Lily sees it in time, and manages to get out. I won’t give the game away, but it’s an enjoyable scene amongst some rather dull ones.
The main problem with Cassadaga is how it tries to be many things at once. It has a supernatural element with its vengeful ghost, but it also has a torture porn element with a demented serial killer who likes to make people into marionettes. The ideas link, but the film takes its sweet time to link them. It also heavily relies on flashback story-telling, which I find at the best of times to be weak writing. Of course at times it is completely necessary, but I personally feel Cassadaga suffers from it. The film also includes flash imagery, throwing up images that piece together like a puzzle later on.
These are seen in Lily’s head, and she paints them and makes sense of them after having a little screaming fit and throwing things about. It all seems a little convenient at this point, and it is something that the narrative of Cassadaga does a few times – it makes things easier for itself so that we draw conclusions quicker in some places, and too slowly in others. The pacing is a little off. However, I do have respect for the fact that the film tries to be a bit different by throwing in a few curveballs.
The thing that is most interesting about Cassadaga is the choice to have a leading character who is deaf as her deafness adds an extra layer of vulnerability. She cannot hear when someone (or something) is behind her, and must rely on instinct and occasional help to get her out of the situations she finds herself in. She is not at all exploited for her hearing impediments, and is well adjusted to dealing with them. Kelen Coleman does a good job playing this part, performing particularly well in drastic situations, not overacting at any point.
Directorially there is nothing ground breaking here. There are no particularly artistic elements, and the framing is all rather typical of films of this genre. The music initially is a little annoying, creating tension and suspense when at the time it is not really needed at the beginning of the film, but it soon settles and becomes a rather minor element – as it should be. The makeup effects of our vengeful spirit are very good, as are the effects of the poor marionette victims.
Overall, Cassadaga never really gets above, or dips below average. It has its pacing issues and some issues of throwing too much at the audience, but it does settle into being a rather average modern horror flick. Watch if you fancy minor jumpy moments, and conventions of the genre to stay intact.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★