London Voodoo DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Heretic Films
Written and directed by Robert Pratten
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on August 14th, 2004
Doug Cockle as Lincoln
Sara Stewart as Sarah
Vonda Barnes as Kelly
Trisha Mortimer as Fiona
Michael Nyquist as Magnus
Sven-Bertil Taube as Lars
When husband and wife Lincoln (Doug Cockle – “Band of Brothers”) and Sarah (Sara Stewart – Batman Begins) move from the States to London, it’s supposed to be a fresh start. Lincoln, a workaholic, promised his wife he would spend more time at home with the family. But hooking up a fax machine in the living room right when they move in is not necessarily a sign of good faith.
However, to appease his wife, Lincoln hires a nanny, Kelly (Vonda Barnes), to help her with their child. Sarah will need the help, too, because she’ll be busy with the contractors doing work on the new house. And with the unearthed bodies in the basement.
Shortly after the contractors begin work, they find a box buried under the basement floor. But, before they can open it, the lights go out, one of the contractors hits his head and gets a nasty cut, and his partner has to take him for medical attention. Soon after they leave, Sarah heads downstairs and finds the box they discovered. She manages to crack it open with no problems. Unless an immediate seizure-like state after the hammer breaks through is a problem.
When Lincoln gets home, Sarah shows him the discovery (apparently, the seizure was a normal thing). After checking out the contents of the box (some trinkets, a couple of bodies, the usual voodoo burial stuff), and some discussion of what they should do with the bodies, Sarah persuades her husband not to call the cops just yet. The bodies have obviously been down there for a while. They can stay awhile longer. Yeah, that’s always a good decision.
And, to make matters worse, one of the bodies is an African warrior who had a curse placed on her, and she’s looking for new body to inhabit.
Well, soon enough, Sarah starts acting a little kooky — saving hair, toenails, damn near biting her husband’s nose off in a fit of rage, that sort of thing — and it’s up to Lincoln to find the solution that will save his wife from whatever is possessing her.
London Voodoo is one of those movies where, while the story is somewhat lacking, the performances and directing make up for its shortcomings. It’s not a bad story — hell, it has voodoo and possession going for it — it’s just missing that “oomph” that pushes it over to something more memorable.
The acting, however, is outstanding. Doug Cockle nails the portrayal of a man who can’t quite decide what is more important, work or family. You want to scream at him to forget his job and take care of his wife, who is obviously not herself, but you can tell he is so focused on impressing his new bosses he can’t grasp that his family is falling apart in front of him.
At the same time, Sara Stewart makes the transition from a wife trying to hold her family together to a crazed lunatic seamlessly. Watching her transformation is quite entertaining, because you never really know if she is Sarah the wife or Sarah the African warrior.
Also, while I never quite figured out what role Vonda Barnes had in the movie, other than to try and seduce Lincoln, she was still a pleasure to watch. Barnes has a sex appeal that is evident as soon as she walks in a room, and she has the acting skill to belie the notion that she is just another pretty face. Too bad Barnes’ character was such a throwaway, because she not only has the ability to be more than cannon fodder, she has the charisma to make people notice her.
And that is just one of the problems with the film. There is really no reason to have the nanny in the movie at all, if her only part is to attempt to seduce Lincoln and keep the kid occupied so Mommy can get to getting possessed. Kelly is nicely set up as cannon fodder, but when what happens to her happens to her, you really don’t care. It’s just cool to watch.
In addition, while Cockle and Stewart were great with their own roles, there was no synergy between them. I just could not buy them as a loving couple. It’s through no fault of their own, or their ability as actors, but there was no chemistry between them. Sometimes, no matter how talented the actors are, you can’t force chemistry.
On the other hand, it was easy to buy Sarah’s hatred for Lincoln. The two made a better bitter couple than loving one, because the love was just not there. And, since I couldn’t buy them as a couple, Stewart’s performance as an angry, scorned woman was spot on.
The story is weak, but writer/director Robert Pratten still manages to make the movie more than watchable. Voodoo has some great scenes and keeps you interested throughout. The acting makes a mediocre story entertaining, and, while there are some plot points that seem to go nowhere, there aren’t enough to make the movie a bad one. And because he pulls off a decent movie with what he had (which, ironically enough, was limited by his own writing), Pratten shows he has a definite future. While he didn’t explode through the gates with Voodoo, he certainly didn’t meander through them, either.
Video and Audio:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Voodoo looks good. There are some minor instances of artifacts, but overall, this is a solid presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is a pretty good mix, considering this not a major studio release. The rears are somewhat underused, but it sounds better than most lower-budgeted DVDs out there.
Dolby stereo is also offered.
For special features, Voodoo offers 10 deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, an interview with a voodoo priest and a director’s commentary.
Of the features, the voodoo priest interview is the most interesting, running about 20 minutes and offering a brief history of voodoo and its rituals.
The making-of documentary is just that, a making-of. Running about an hour, it covers quite a few scenes, and how they were shot. It’s refreshing to see an actual making-of doc that doesn’t contain 95% ass-kissing and 5% percent making-of.
The commentary is worth a listen if you are really into the film. Normally, I’m not a fan of single-person commentaries, but Pratten does a fine job of keeping the track interesting, something not often seen in solo commentaries.
|Movie:||– A solid first effort, with an impressive cast and entertaining moments.|
|Video:||– A few specks, but a good-looking movie.|
|Audio:||– A good mix for a low-budget movie.|
|Features:||– Between the voodoo priest interview and the making-of doc, this disc has better-than-average special features.|
|Overall:||– A well-rounded disc.|
Voodoo is a good rental for those who enjoy tales of voodoo and possession (which are in short supply). Some enjoyable scenes — such as what happens to Kelly — are worth the rental fee alone.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, Phillips DVP642 DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Cyberhome CH-DVD300 DVD player.)
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