A young deaf woman, Lily More, moves to the spiritualist community of Cassadaga after the death of her sister. The two girls had been orphans, their mother dying when they were young, so Lily’s life has already been blighted by tragedy. She’s been awarded a bursary to the local University, where she wants to study art – just like her late mother did – but after attending a séance in the dodgy part of town, she begins to be haunted by what appears to be the ghost of a murdered girl. Meanwhile, a killer is abducting women and making them into horrific puppets…
And so goes the premise of Cassadaga and, as far as low budget horror plots go, it isn’t a bad one. The first fifteen minutes of the film are confusing, though, bombarding us with pure exposition, but once Lily moves to the small, strange town and into a room in the large house owned by the slightly mysterious old woman Claire, things settle down and the film starts to find its rhythm.
The great Louise Fletcher makes a welcome appearance – although her part is little more than a cameo – and the lead actress, Kelen Coleman, is really rather good as the blind but resourceful heroine. The film juggles a lot of balls, and works hard to keep viewers on their toes, and this works well until the final third of the movie, when inevitably things begin to require explaining. The first hour is an interesting combination of country house mystery, ghost story, and serial killer tropes. Sadly, the final act develops into a typical slasher/final girl scenario, and all the good work that came before is overshadowed by cliché and melodrama.
The direction is a little flat, and a lot of the secondary characters are played by actors who aren’t quite as good as the leads. On the plus side, there’s a very original séance scene and the longer the ghost story/mystery elements are played out, the more a viewer will find they actually care about Lily’s fate – empathy is a rare thing in modern horror movies, and is to be welcomed. The blindness angle isn’t utilised well, however, and seems as if it’s just a pointless add-on. The story would have worked just as well if the protagonist had been sighted.
It’s difficult to dislike a film like Cassadaga. It isn’t trying to fit in with the current found-footage sagas or Saw rip-offs that are currently saturating the genre, but it’s not exactly something you’d call groundbreaking either. Taken on its own terms, however, it’s an enjoyable piece of horror hokum.
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