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Voodoo
(1995)
 

Director:Rene Eram                       
Cast:
Corey Feldman, Joel J. Edwards, Diana Nadeau


I was, like, soooo prepared to hate this movie. That's because the starring actor in it was Corey Feldman, who was a teen heartthrob in the 1980s, though I don't think even in his glory days I was the only one who had his stomach turned when seeing or hearing him. It's because of him and the other Corey (Corey Haim) that mothers with newborn children have added the name Corey to the list of names that they dare not any longer name their babies, which also currently includes Elvis, Rush, and Sylvester. Imagine my surprise that I found Voodoo to be - well, I can't truthfully say it was a good movie, but it certainly kept my interest up to a significant level for its 90 minutes.

I was also somewhat surprised by Feldman. I would have guessed that with his glory days behind him, his acting ability would have sunk even further that it was during the height of his success. That's not to say that he gives a great performance, though. He never seems to fit into whatever is happening onscreen; he looks confused, out of place. Sporting a tangled weave of hair that looks like it was given a bad dye job, and always dressed in sloppy clothes that look at least one size bigger than him just adds to this feeling of not belonging there. However, Feldman in this movie has actually managed to eliminate his obnoxiousness that he always brought to his earlier movies. He still can't act, but he's much more likable.

Feldman plays Andy, a slacker youth who has just transferred from the college he was attending in England to the one where his med student girlfriend Rebecca (Nadeau) currently attends. His first day there isn't great - Rebecca almost seems to resent his coming all of a sudden, and he has no place to stay. To his luck, that night Marsh (Edwards, in a very good performance) a strange member of the Omega fraternity happens by, and invites Andy to join up. At first, Andy is thrilled to be part of the fraternity - all the other members are outcasts like him and equally resent those snotty fraternities on campus. But things soon have him questioning the actions of Marsh and the other frat members; his initiation involves him stealing a corpse from the campus morgue, he visits a bar with his new friends and wakes up the next morning with a strange snake tattoo on his chest, and a crazy old man is hanging around with his eye on the fraternity. With the title of the movie being Voodoo, viewers will probably have at least more of an idea than Andy does about what is going on, and soon Andy finds himself fighting for his life, not just in one way.

Aside from Feldman not giving a strong enough performance, there were only two other flaws of significance that are to found in Voodoo: slow pacing, and predictability. There are plenty of creepy moments to be found (which I'll get to shortly), but it's what's around them that's slow. There are dull chats between Andy and his girlfriend, a visit to another fraternity before meeting Omega, and meeting of characters that makes us think for each one stuff like, "Oh, she'll be a victim later!" and "Oh, he'll turn out to be a bad guy!". Even knowing this, a wink for the audience acknowledging this could have made these scenes fun. Instead, they just go on and on and we think, "Oh, we know what this character is going to end up doing/being, so just get on with it!" And that is where the predictability factor comes in - since we instantly know what's going to happen with each character, the "twists" that the screenplay seem to be depending on completely fall flat. There was only one genuine twist that I didn't see coming, which happened in the scene where Andy returns to the old man after his "mission". Well, actually I did manage to guess half of the twist, and you'll probably do so too.

Still, there was a good amount of material in the movie surrounding this that I did like, and helped keep me interested, despite the predictability. Although there are some bloody (though not too bloody) sequences, the emphasis director Rene Eram places on this movie is on suspense and mood. The opening sequence, with a desperately fleeing student feeling the wraith of a voodoo curse, shows the victim in an intense panic, and his scrambling around while being stabbed by invisible forces is quite unnerving. Later in the movie, there is a mass slaughter sequence which is shown in slow motion, cutting back every few seconds to Marsh telling his buddies just what is happening at the massacre site as he speaks. Narrating these events in an almost sarcastic tone of voice, the two moods mix together to create another unsettling sequence. Eram isn't, however, afraid to have a little fun with these suspense sequences; the old "shock-by-friend's-hand-on-shoulder" bit actually is somewhat amusing to see resurrected here. There's another scene where Andy has to sneak into the morgue, and has to enter a door right behind a janitor who is polishing the floor. Eram has Andy sneak closer, and closer, and closer, and takes it long enough so that we are smiling how silly it is getting, though is careful not to take it too long so that it stops being a joke.

I think many people frequently underappreciate what a musical score can do for a movie, and Voodoo actually is a good movie to show how music can enhance the emotional feel of a movie. The unique score by Keith Bilderbeck is mostly not traditional music, but instead made up of various sounds like rattles, wood blocks clicking together, insect noises, creaks, breathing, and dripping water. It does eventually get a little repetitive, but even then it still manages to do the impressive task of somehow taking these familiar noises and generating a feeling that there is something supernatural in the air.

Though the locations chosen for the movie are pretty much instantly forgettable, the technical work on the movie is well done, managing to give the movie a professional look while not making it too slick, which would have hurt a movie like this dealing with a more gritty subject. I don't have any real regrets renting Voodoo; it isn't a great movie, but it does keep you watching. It's a good "B" movie for your "B" list - that's the secondary list of "B" movies you have when you can't find any of the "B" movies on your "A" list.

Also reviewed at: Cold Fusion Video


UPDATE: Maria Pia Gekas sent along this interesting information:

"Hi, I just read your review of the movie Voodoo and I have some points you might want to add. The entire premise of the movie is ridiculous. First of all, salt does not kill zombies, it is not 'to zombies what garlic is to vampires', in the voodoo tradition if a boko (evil sorcerer) accidentally gives his zombie some salt, the zombie is free (not dead). Also they made a huge deal about sacrificing people to Ezili for eternal life. Ezili is the goddess of LOVE and is usually equated to the Virgin Mary. Just thought you might like to know."

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See also: The Black Room, Hex, The Other

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