VooDoo Movie Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Released by Freestyle Digital Media
Written and directed by Tom Costabile
2017, 84 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 24th, 2017
Samantha Stewart as Dani Lamb
Ruth Reynolds as Stacy Cole
Dominic Matteucci as Spencer Boyd
Daniel Kozul as Trey Neil
Okay, listen, I went into VooDoo after watching The Martian (decent, but the book was much, much better) and The Revenant (superb, brutal, perfectly gory), so maybe my eyes were accustomed to a higher-budget aesthetic, but it took me a while to start taking this movie seriously. For starters, the accents and acting are atrocious. Trust me, I’ve lived in the south for almost a decade and I’ve never encountered anyone who speaks like the main character in this film. Thankfully, the accent subsides as the movie moves forward. Furthermore, the long pool scene ten minutes into the movie features a guy freezing his nuts off. Not in the film, mind you, but shaking for real and trying to hide it. That shit became so distracting I lost track of what they were talking about. Anyway, let’s get to the plot and the real review before I spend an entire paragraph on the cold guy and how I thought...never mind.
Dani is a young woman from Louisiana who’s trying to escape the memories of a recent loss as well as the wrath of her ex-lover’s wife, a mysterious woman by the name of Serafine L’Amour, who may or may not be a voodoo high priestess. Looking for fresh air, she decides to visit her cousin Stacey in LA. The young ladies get along very well and enjoy a little pool party, a night out at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a few clubs and bars, and some relaxing time at the beach. However, it soon becomes clear that just moving to a new place is not enough to escape the things that haunt Dani. The fun stops, and a quick, brutal trip to hell immediately follows.
VooDoo is almost like two different movies mashed together. The plot unifies both halves of the film, but the visuals and quality of cinematography are abysmally different. The first half of the movie is a typical and immediately forgettable low-budget flick packed with bad acting, somewhat decent sound, and mediocre writing. However, once the gates of hell open up, what follows is visually outstanding considering the film’s obvious lack of budget. More than a nightmare or a few visions, what VooDoo presents viewers is a bizarre and wonderfully gory tour of hell that includes a few different kinds of denizens and even a short visit to Dani’s happy place, which immediately turns into something else.
My main problem with VooDoo, besides the shortcomings usually associated with this kind of low-budget production, is something the film shares with a million others: its very unnecessary use of the found-footage aesthetic. Dani is interested in filmmaking and gets the camera for the trip, but then, like in most other found footage films, there is recording that makes absolutely no sense. A few examples are while she is alone and not talking to the camera and while she and her cousin are relaxing at the beach. This problem gets even worse once everything goes to hell, literally. Decent, stabilized shots in hell? Yes. Superb close ups and almost constant focus while this tiny camera is taken through the underworld by a demon? You know it. Seriously, filmmakers, found-footage films should have a raison d'être, something that aids in suspension of disbelief. Expecting audiences to just go with the flow is lazy and just doesn’t cut it any more. This movie could have easily been entirely devoid of the shaky camera shots and single-camera scenes that are the bread and butter of the subgenre and it would’ve worked just as well, not to mention the fact that it would’ve made more sense. Seriously, I love found-footage films, but when it comes to his genre, by now I feel like an idiot sitting in a hospital bed and looking up lovingly at the woman who stabbed me and saying “I still love you, baby. I forgive you...again.”
Perhaps the best thing about VooDoo is that it’s a one-man show courtesy of writer/director Tom Constabile. The first half of the movie is bad, but what he did with limited means in the second is enough to make me curious about whatever he does next. This is a man who will get better at writing (the best thing about writing is that we all get better at it if we keep doing it!), and he’s already fearless. He tried to tell a story here, and he almost pulled it off. That being said, he threw in a ton of gore and even a rape scene with Satan himself. That takes guts. That scene is enough for me to say: “What else do you have for us?”