While I did review this film as a screener in April of 2017 for Rogue Cinema, it now has accomplished an official DVD from Wild Eye Releasing, with new artwork, featuring the common body manipulations of demonic themed creatures. In addition, it’s available on various VOD carriers such as Amazon Prime, hence I decided against placing it among the Archive Reviews and give it a fresh watch.
When mentioning the phrase “found footage” a mixture of responses follows the average horror fan genre some love it and others reject it overall, needless to say, likely a lasting impression with filmmakers, and use in this provoking Voodoo film. Director and writer Tom Costabile implements suggestions of the voodoo religion, from the opening scenes before the credits follow by a creative classic voodoo themed drumming. As he then combines with a twisted version of Judeo-Christian involving many references to Hell, especially when dealing the lead character Dani. The passion of the subgenre, allows limited budgets to flourish, first time directors to complete a feature, and stretch storylines. For a while in the horror genre, zombie films dominated and saturated the genre, but lately the found footage flicks also flood the market, especially in the realm of the paranormal. These movies generate a theory of realistic situations, fluid cinematography and obviously spoiled conclusions however, the last option becomes muddled for Costabile’s movie concerning filming a daughter’s getaway to California.
The film starts oddly with a killing of a mother and then daughter, by Serafine (Constance Strickland) who invokes a voodoo and black magic spell summoning a demonic force to curse upon Dani (Samantha Stewart, some might recall from 12/12/12 ). It is from this point the video camera point of view goes into effect, as Dani Lamb’s father insisted she take it to film the entire trip, leaving New Orleans, this aspect becomes problematic later in the movie. She’s there to visit her cousin Stacy (Ruth Reynolds) in Los Angeles, California at a house shared by two other guys Trey (Daniel Kozul) and Spencer (Dominic Matteucci), who all belong to a band. During the first night just like a typical tourist to visit the hotspots, face most people actually do that dismissing it foolish, later the first night, they film elements of smoking illegal drugs, and visiting the legendary club The Rainbow, a popular hangout for the late Lemmy Kilmister. A brief cameo from Ron Jeremy (Girls Gone Dead (2012)), a well-known porn star and crossover to horror small bit parts, shows up abruptly to offer Dani a place in a porno and later in a misguided attempt for comic relief performs the weirdest dancing. It is here one learns the back-story on Dani, her mother dying and her ex-lover Frank, a married guy to a voodoo priestess, who went to her workplace cursing her in a strange language. The following day, Dani encounters a make out session with a lot of groping, unsure if the filming of all this debauchery likely becomes a positive reinforcement for her father entertainment, when he sees the video. Then given a weird but cool night vision shot, it helps to ride out the first 40-minutes of the movie, and a curious beach scene involving Stacy’s body transitioning. The camera conveniently placed and questions why someone would film walking down streets and lying on beaches, it truly drags on the overall production. A subtle reference to religion comes in the form of Dani’s last name, Lamb, referencing the sacrifice and a term used often in both horror movies and those of religious tones. In addition, both Dani and Stacy wear a cross, but neither practice any Christian values, hence the suggestion relates more as costume jewelry than powerful faith symbols.
The second half of the movie truly feels the ramping up of turmoil and chaos and constitutes as if two different movies spliced together. Dani wakes up to the sound of drums in the middle of the night, and everything becomes insanely rich in the scene of an entryway to hell; she stands at the threshold of damnation. A series of graffiti-covered stairwells with the word “Hell” and inverted pentagrams among other designs – spooky black silhouette with blazing red eyes, slamming doors, and plenty of screams. All before dragged into hell, and a demon holds the camera for what unknown reason. Quickly enough, actions from other demons involving raping nuns, an abortion and feeding on a fetus , and some weird child abuse of a molester and little girl (why is the child there) no reasons given. Everything shown in bright red and constant screams, growls, and inverted crosses, before Dani raped by a Satan figure all recorded on the camera. One can only assume Dani’s Daddy definitely unlikely to find entertainment with this footage.
Sadly, one needs to admit the story bogs down for a brief moment in the second act and takes a great deal of time to hit the right groove, a core of the audience, likely to stay focused with this production. However, for those that stay with the movie, may find comfort in the special effects, and costumes as the crew delivers on the budget’s limitations. Tom recruited sound designer Frank Serafine (The Fog ) early in the production, wanting a hell-ride themed sound, like that of theme park rides he, Frank, created in the past. Incidentally, Frank’s the name of the husband Dani cheats with and Serafine is the voodoo priestess. The acting doesn’t feel rehearsed or professional, naturally required here, though their constant screaming tends to wear on many levels. Needless, the second half of the film generates the most powerful reactions positive and negative from both practitioners of the Voodoo religion and Christians in general; and again, the confusing reasoning of why the innocent occupied a place in hell – i.e. the child, it suggests a bizarre interpretation of lust and perversion. Oh, by the way, the demon who films in hell delivers some nifty cinematography skills. Lastly, did you catch realtor’s sign with Tom’s name on it, and a phone number-using Fund Me spelled out, nice touch.
Costabile’s movie gives very good illusions and becomes a movie not relying on just the cursory glances of voodoo, nor following that of The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), rather delivers a refreshing movie, but still a found footage movie. While the shock and awe form many depictions of hell, one, might become a tad lost in them, especially since it is Dani’s past behavior to condemn everyone around her, one must truly suspend the rational thoughts and embrace a tormented trip in Hell.
IMDb Rating: 4.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 5/10