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  • Nate Adams

Review: 'Spell' locks the characters (and audience) in mindless captivity

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


There’s some voodoo magic happening in “Spell,” which could aptly be described as the gothic remake of “Misery.” Protagonist Marquis (Omari Hardwick) who survived an abusive childhood in rural Appalachia, has made a name for himself as a hotshot attorney, living with his wife and kids in the big city. When he finds out his father has passed, Marquis is forced to reconcile his demons and fall into the begotten genre traps of psychological horror thrillers.

If the lavish house wasn’t a signal of his detachment from a poverty riddled childhood, Marquis literally flies his family to attend his father’s estate plans but things hit a snag when a storm hits, and they crash. Battered and bruised the next morning, Marquis awakens at the mercy of local nurse Elouise (Loretta Devine – giving the movie life) whose treatment plan doesn’t mean healthier results. It’s an interesting predicament that screenwriter Kurt Wimmer finds the character in, and the underlying menace that punctuates Devine’s performance gives “Spell” some mileage. 

The dive into Marquis’s tortured pass and his gain of material wealth as a way of coping with an abusive father is quite substantial. When the lawyer makes a return to his hometown, you can sense hostility and the script flirts with classism and horror, but then delves into typical mindless Saturday night mayhem that’s keen on shock value rather than embracing big ideas. And the comparisons to “Misery” – with the character bed ridden, too injured to walk, and cared for by a deranged maniac – are potent.

Director Mark Tonderai certainly has an eye for flair and dresses his production designs with the rage of an equipped haunted house, complete with creaky floorboards, dark corridors, and ear crackling thunderstorms. It’s something Tonderai dabbled with in the equally silly, but lackluster Jennifer Lawrence starrer “House at the End of the Street.” He attacks our senses in the hopes we’ll forgive obvious shortcomings, and though Devine is having a blast hamming it up to 11 and stealing the show from Hardwick, who exists in this film to react to her evil wrongdoings, the convoluted ending undercuts an interesting first act with a message that in order to be a man, you must commit acts of violence. That’s not spellbinding, it’s contemptuous. 

Grade: C-

SPELL will be available via Premium-Video-On-Demand Friday, October 30th


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