Cassadaga (2012)

What is Cassadaga? I don’t mean the word – that relates to a town and university our protagonist goes to – but what is Cassadaga the film? Why am I asking you? Because I don’t know. And I watched it…

Cassadaga is a random string of events, jumbled together and called a horror movie. It’s clear writers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley had a decent idea about a serial killer who turns his victims into horrific flesh marionettes, but their execution of this story is incredibly poor.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The prologue shows our serial killer as a young “Buffalo Bill”, prancing about in a dress and playing with creepy dolls (in this case, creepy marionettes). The first line of dialogue has his overacting mum screaming “What’ve I told you about dressing like a girl?” at him. His reaction? He cuts off his penis.

Cut to present day and we meet our protagonist Lily, who is played with gusto throughout by Kelen Coleman. Yes, her name is Kelen.

Immediately Wood and Poiley prove themselves to be first timers in the world of feature film scripting. They were clearly desperate to have a likeable and brave protagonist, so they went for a twenty-something deaf orphan teacher who has adopted her younger sister and saved ALL her money so they can both skip continents and move to Paris, literally so her sister could get the education she deserves… whilst big perfect sis would wait tables (as a deaf English-speaking waitress in France, obviously) and spend every evening polishing her halo. A character needs a flaw to be truly sympathetic, but Lily is instantly ridiculous in how perfect she is, and we kind of hate her because of this.

That said… her sister is killed pretty much immediately and Lily gets over it pretty damn quickly, easily gaining a grant / placement / job (it’s not clear what) at an isolated exclusive university in a mansion teaching kids to paint (or something). She meets a loving EMT gentleman going through a bitter divorce and gets her fuck on right away. It’s all working out… until she randomly pays five hundred dollars (about £3.20) to see a psychic that might be able to get her in contact with little dead sis.

Little sis is there – of course – but so is something else! A horrible ghost monster woman who will do anything to mind-fuck Lily into solving the mystery of her death. At least that’s what we VERY SLOWLY discover over the film…
Unfortunately the plot is mostly absent for the first 45 minutes. A series of confused events just irritate rather than intrigue, with the cock-snip opening, a sequence involving a coffin, a weird house, a wank-happy weirdo, an insane séance, some ghosts, a random kidnapping by a voice-throwing serial killer and many other moments of inconsistent weirdness. Without a consistent tone, the film suffers greatly from a lack of direction and becomes quickly dull.

After 45 minutes we’re finally given our FIRST look at our psychotic puppeteer and his headquarters (rented out by Clichéd Serial Killer Lairs Ltd), which is a dirty cellar filled with masks, puppets and – naturally – a sedated woman being slowly made into a giant puppet. Does this have anything to do with our protagonist? Nope. Her story? Nope. The majority of the previous 45 minutes of excruciating confusion? Nope. It’s like the start of a new film…

Having ignored the advice of the psychic experts, Lily refuses guidance and leaves. Afterwards she hallucinates some terrifying shit, collapses in public and pukes up a lungful of bloodied maggots, but still doesn’t consider accepting that “guidance” the experts offered… until she almost dies in a psycho-ghost-in-a-car vehicular accident. Then – returning to the séance house – the psychic woman finally gives us the plot. One hour in. Lily and EMT boy are told to go all Columbo and try and solve the disappearance of a local girl, hopefully freeing her smegged-off spirit and stopping Lily from experiencing random ghost attacks.

By 1 hour 10 minutes it’s excruciatingly dull and angeringly plotless. Lily has random noise attacks which force her to lock herself inside a shed (smart move Batman) and is dumped by her nothingy boyfriend because – basically – she’s acting like a dangerously crazy person.

1 hour 25 minutes in and the press finally dub our serial killer Geppetto. Why? Because this is when the first murder victim is found! So this is a horror film about a serial killer who first appears at 45 minutes and the rest of the world hears about him 20 minutes from the film’s end! This is an endurance task not worth partaking in.

And the absolute fucking randomness doesn’t end there. A policeman suggests Lily sleep in the car why he investigates a lead!! Yeah, why not? Such is the endlessly random nature of the film, our protagonist and antagonist actually only first meet nearly 90 minutes in! Imagine if Laurie Strode and Michael Myers didn’t interact until the last ten minutes of Halloween?

Anyway, the final fifteen minutes then proceeds to be a laughable mess. At one point our hero is too busy flippin’ the bird and screaming “fuck you!” at the killer to look at the road ahead, resulting in a horrible car crash. Random, dull and idiotic – these three words sum up Cassadga perfectly.

I feel a little sorry for director Anthony DiBlasi, because he does a reasonable job of deciphering and filming Poiley and Wood’s awful script. DiBlasi is a decent director, having helmed the underrated 2009 horror flick Dread. Given the right material, DiBlasi could be one to watch. Just not because of Cassadaga.

Now there are some genuinely effective moments amongst the randomness – a “creepy tentacle on the floor” nightmare moment adds to the weird but in a good way (yet even this is promptly followed by J-horror cliché) and the entire puppet-woman is inventive, disturbing and brilliantly designed. Yet this isn’t enough to dig it out from the hellish confusion splattered onto the screen.

What’s more – and this is AGAIN the fault of the scriptwriters – the carefully set up moments and character traits never pay off. Lily being deaf is inconsequential, we never understand how the killer can magically throw his voice (male and female versions!), the dead sister storyline was redundant (need an excuse to do a séance? Her mum died years ago. There, I’ve snipped 40 minutes off your film), the EMT boyfriend storyline is ditched and never referred to again and her mum being a resident of Cassadaga years ago never seems to matter. It’s all so random and poorly thought out that it’s literally just made me rant like a crazy old man on a bus. And I hate ranting in public.

Cassadaga is almost unwatchable. It’s not disgusting, it’s not badly acted, it’s not badly directed – it’s just an absolute mess. And at 100 minutes it is far far too long to bother enduring. Much like this review. Avoid.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

3 Comments on “Cassadaga”

  1. [...] review Share this:StumbleUponTwitterFacebookPrintEmailDiggLinkedInRedditPinterestTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Leave a Comment by mondozilla on 16 July, 2012  •  Permalink Posted in American horror, independent movie, serial killer Tagged 2011, Cassadaga, review, IMDb, Wikipedia [...]

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