While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying himself and his family. He soon awakens wounded, alone, and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic. Eloise claims she can nurse him back to health with a hoodoo figure she’s made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
Even though Halloween is behind us for this year, that doesn’t mean that horror film releases are not continuing throughout the rest of the year. Personally, I’m totally fine with new horror movies coming out, seeing as how it’s my favorite genre. There’s nothing more exciting to me than sitting back and watching a film that’s genuinely scary or unnerving. It takes a ton of skill and the right filmmaker to make this happen, but this year, we’ve gotten some great ones such as The Invisible Man and Possessor.
But I had never heard of Mark Tonderai’s Spell. The posters and promotional material looked genuinely great and it seemed as if it was going to be a clever and creepy new addition to the surprisingly great roster of horror films this year, pandemic and all. Unfortunately, there’s little praise to give to Spell. This is absolutely one of the worst horror movies of the year, and one of the most uneventful as well.
It’s such a shame too because the film actually started off half-decent. It has a simple premise that slowly but surely devolves into insanity. A man gets into a plane crash with his family only to discover that they are nowhere in sight. He then gets hospitality from an old woman with seemingly good intentions only to discover that there is something quite wrong going on behind-the-scenes.
Sadly, after about the first twenty minutes, Spell transitions from being a relatively interesting horror thriller to an unintentionally funny, boring, and convoluted disaster. The film tries to explore a mythos behind everything which I do admire and respect, but not only is it hard to follow, but it’s not interesting enough to care about either.
The acting here is also a little bit iffy at times. Omari Hardwick easily gives the best performance in the movie, but even he isn’t remarkable here. He doesn’t have any scene that makes his performance truly shine. I would say he is decent in the film, but that’s about it. Loretta Devine clearly had a blast portraying the uncertain Ms. Eloise, but she overacts in some scenes, unfortunately, even if she is admittedly entertaining to watch.
Not to mention the fact that it feels like it’s trying to be so many different movies wrapped into one. There are some instances in which it sort of feels like a low-budget version of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, there are some similarities to Misery, and even the television series Lost. If screenwriter Kurt Wimmer had just stuck to one simple idea and did the best with his writing talents, I think this would have been a much better, more tightly compact horror thriller. And maybe then it would have something to say because Spell seemingly tries to be a social commentary, but when it commits to this, it fails tremendously.
Mark Tonderai’s Spell is, unfortunately, unable to cast any sort of thrilling effect on its viewers due to its convoluted and boring script, even if it starts out promising enough.
Overall Grade: D+
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Distributed by: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Running Time: 91 minutes