VooDoo (2017)

Dani arrives in California to visit her cousin for a month and have some fun away from her worries and her past.  The two girls do fun tourist things and prank each other, until something goes wrong, very, very wrong.   As things go from bad to worse, the film explores voodoo, the supernatural, and hell, all through a found footage lens.  The story created by writer/director Tom Costabile has a lot of good ideas and some truly unnerving imagery and moments.  The opening with the voodoo curse being put into place goes from interesting to freaky fairly fast.  The film itself then takes a little bit to establish the two cousins and the other players around them (including an unnecessary but not annoying cameo by Ron Jeremy) until one pranks leads to all hell breaking loose.

The way this develops in the house is creepy and effective even through the most of the time shaky found footage cam.  Once the lead moves to a secondary location, the film has good ideas still, but the found footage angle doesn’t make sense and the new location has a bunch of issues.  That being said, once the film gets past that, a few really creepy scenes happen and the ending is chilling even with a few issues in the makeup department. Most of the film revolves around Dani and her cousin Stacy, the actresses portraying them are the ones with the most of the film on their shoulders.  Samantha Stewart plays Dani, the fun-loving girl running from her past away from New Orleans and to Los Angeles.  Stewart does a decent job with the scenes she has, especially once the scare factor gets cranked up.

Playing her cousin Stacy, Ruth Reynolds is bubbly and brings a lot of energy.  The two of them however have southern accents that seemingly come and go on a whim throughout the film, creating an issue with being able to fully believe them as southerners and this causes issues getting fully immersed into the story.  On the plus side, once the story moves to most of the characters mostly just screaming in fear and crying, the accents are not an issue anymore.  The rest of the cast gets little screen time or is covered in makeup to a point where their performances are harder to read.  The cinematography by David M. Brewer is fairly run of the mill for lower budget found footage films.  The film has an uneven look depending on what kinds of scenes are shot, giving the impression that not everything that is supposed to be shot by Dani is shot by her.

Once the story moves into its second half, the location that unfortunately looks like an even lower budget haunted house, the point of view switches and who is holding the camera is not quite clear and honestly puzzling as it does not make a whole lot of sense.  The makeup effects for the evil characters and for a few others are ok, but clearly inexpensive and done as best they could.  The makeup effects team composed of Miranda Jory, Benjamin D. Ploughman, Graham Schofield, and Tanner White does good work that is clearly influenced by Evil Dead and a few other movies.  The creepier, most unsettling scenes are not necessarily the ones with the most special effects.  The unseen is much more effective here and the supernatural apparitions in the house, courtesy of visual effects artists Dean Guiliotis, Bo Howe, Lior Molcho, and Frank Synowicz, are simple and effective.  They even will stay with some viewers after turning off the movie, which is a sign of memorable work.

VooDoo is unfortunately a very uneven film.  It has good ideas and some really well executed scenes that will send chills down most viewers’ spines.  It spends a bit too much time setting up the characters and having them meander in Los Angeles like tourists before turning the creep factor way up and having it work well until the story moves to a secondary location that is both puzzling in choice and makes some sense if that is possible.  More time should have been spent in the house, building the suspense and dread before moving to the alternate location which could use a few judicious cuts to make it shorts with more impact before getting to that effective, chilling end.

Now on VOD and limited theatrical release.