VooDoo (2016) Found Footage Movie Review

As I got ready to watch Tom Costabile’s VooDoo, I found myself reading a few reviews about the film before I hit the Play button. I just wanted to know what I as getting into. Everything I read said it would be fantastic. Of course, this made me wonder if my expectations were too high and I would be disappointed that it wasn’t as great as everyone said it was. Without any further ado, I flipped up the bill of my Hat of Unbiasness and started the film. How did VooDoo end up faring?

The official synopsis:

When Dani, an innocent Southern girl, vacations to Los Angeles to evade her increasingly complicated life, she learns that escaping her past isn’t as easy as she hoped.

VooDoo is the debut feature of director Costabile (The First Time 2006) – he also co-produced, wrote, co-edited, created the storyboards and cast the film. Alec Justin Henderson was also very involved in making this supernatural horror show, co-producing, co-editing, working the camera and even acting in the film. The cast includes Samantha Stewart (Days Of Our Lives TV series), Ruth Reynolds (Hell’s Half Acre 2015), Dominic Matteucci (Queens Over Kings 2016), and Lavelle Roby (Return to the Valley of the Dolls 1970), with a cameo from Porn King Ron Jeremy. The film hit theaters in a multi-city cinema release this past February 24th.

What Works

VooDoo starts off as a random and rather tame found footage film but after the 50 minute mark, all Hell breaks loose… literally. Many times in horror movies, the plot builds until the last few minutes where the climax shows the antagonist being punished for their wicked crime, the Final Beautiful Person wiping a well-placed smudge from their face and the credits rolling. Hardly ever do we see the bad guys win and a punishment exacted out on the innocent protagonist. I honestly cannot think of another movie where this happens. Not only does Dani (Stewart) lose, but she ends up in her own private version of Hell. She is branded, whipped, tortured both mentally and physically and raped right in front of your eyes. The second half of this film is not for the faint of heart.

What Doesn’t Work

One of the most glaringly off-putting things about VooDoo is Dani’s accent. She’s a hometown gal from New Orleans who’s in California to visit her cousin Stacy (Reynolds). Since she had decided to record her visit with a video camera to show her Daddy back home, all of the sites they visit and the bars they party at are perfectly centered and recorded for posterity. Unfortunately, her heavy Louisiana accent ebbs and flows like the tide, reaching out towards the East Coast, Valley Girl, and even the Midwest. It was very distracting, to say the least. The acting in VooDoo went from Sally Field-like scene chewing to teen girl comedy to one-note character actors. I was never sure if I was supposed to be taking things seriously or not.

Although the film only runs a short 84 minutes, I think it could have benefited from a bit more editing. Scenes that are supposed to shock and frighten should not last more than a few seconds, never mind a full half minute. The found footage aspect was also a bit over the top. I can see filming your vacation to show your family, but I can’t see wanting to let them in on your high times or the non-activity of lying on the beach in your bathing suit. It was also a bit too much for the camera to keep filming once Dani got to Hell. Who’s running the camera? And why are they bothering to film? The camera is in Hell now – no one is ever going to see it, especially not Dani’s questionable Daddy. Jumping from found footage to third person filming (like in 2016’s The Veil) would have made much more sense in this kind of film.

The Hell set looked as if it was thrown together by a Middle School prop department, formed whole and complete out of styrofoam, tempura paint and paper mache. The demons themselves were laughable. It’s possible that Costibile was paying homage to Bava’s Demons (1985), but I’m not sure if I’m buying it. Even the makeup effects from that 32-year-old classic are better than these. If VooDoo was set up like a tongue-in-cheek cheese fest, than I could totally forgive any of the faults listed above. But this film takes itself way too seriously, and unfortunately, you can’t be serious when you’re demons are played by haunted house actors from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and The Blackout Experience.

Final Thoughts

While VooDoo has its faults, it does bring a unique vision of Hell to the table where the good guy doesn’t always win and sometimes there is no secret spell that can save them. If you do decide to watch, don’t be swayed by the tame first half – make sure you hold out until the 50-minute mark. Currently, VooDoo is streaming on Amazon, so give it a go and see what you think.

 

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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