Director : Anthony Diblasi
Writers : Bruce Greenwood, Scott Poiley
Cast : Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, Avis-Marie Barnes
Released to the festival circuit and straight to VOD in Europe in 2011, this independent horror film from ‘Dread’ director Anthony Diblasi got a limited US release this month. The film takes us to Cassadaga Florida, often dubbed ‘The Psychic Capital Of The World’ where Lily a postlingually deaf (meaning she lost her hearing after learning to speak) young painter flees to escape the grief of her young sister’s death. She takes up an artists scholarship and boards with a kind elderly woman but her idyllic surroundings soon reveal powerfully dark other worldly forces.
Cassadaga proves itself to be a fantastically worthwhile horror film right out of the gate. Lily our heroine, instantly lifts the film with strong shoulders with her first introduction. Gentle, kind and relatable she immediately evokes empathy. In being deaf the character is given an extra level of depth not often seen in horror. Her deafness is also utilized to fantastic effect as the tension and horror build, at one point we the viewer are left bereft of sound to truly experience the vulnerability that Lily feels. Its also used in an cleverly tense scene where in the viewer can hear an approaching danger but Lily is dangerously unaware of it.
Bruce Greenwood the film’s co-writer (sharing credit with Scott Poiley) has stated that he developed the story from the setting ; the town of Cassadaga ; a place where as is indicated in the film people go to seances on a night out instead of the movies. His innovative technique paid off as Lily’s mystical surroundings feel grounded in tradition and reality. The seance which Lily attends with her date (which leaves her haunted by the ghost of a murdered girl, beginning the intriguing murder mystery of the film) is one of the most grounded and evocative seance’s that I have seen put to film. Great attention is paid to atmosphere, building a climatic tension that pays off rewardingly.
Cassadaga is a fantastically well constructed horror film, with an engrossing and compelling murder mystery that evokes memories of the wire tight tension of Se7en. Unlike so many heavy handed horrors, gore is never lazily used for scares. It is the tension of the story and genuine fear which its construction creates that is the most frightening. This is horror with a straight face but one that avoids dipping too deeply into the darkness by keeping the supernatural element front and centre. In Lily we are given one of the most relatable and likeable horror heroines in years.
One negative element of the film can be found in the somewhat clunky inclusion of a love interest for Lily. Lily finds herself romanced by the gentle and grounded Mike but he really is quite unneeded when the character of Lily had already been displaying both vulnerability and strength on her own without the device of a love interest. Their dalliances do weigh the film down somewhat and it proves jarring when Mike all but disappears in the third act. The film could also do with being a little punchier of pace but this can be easily forgiven when the final act presents so many interesting horror set pieces that deserve to be taken in slowly.
Overall Cassadaga is a wonderfully engrossing Horror thriller, that deserves both attention and praise. An absolute must for all Horror fans.
4 out of 5 Stars