Eurgh. I am on a roll for crap horror films at the moment.
What can I say about Cassadaga? Well I sat through the ninety odd minutes of it – taking notes, I might add, which is always a bad sign – so I had better write something, so I can save you – Dear Readers – from watching it too.
It begins, intriguingly enough, with a preteen talking to a marionette doll while wearing a girls dress: peculiar still, the doll appears to be talking back. Mum catches him and goes bat-shit crazy, smashing his doll and shredding his clothes. His response? To mutilate his genitals. Yes, you read that right.
Cut to – a deaf teacher in a classroom and reason number one for why this films is shit: her acting. In the history of film, there has never been a less convincing portrayal of a deaf woman. I think the lazy film-makers wanted to excuse this by emphasising that she had only gone deaf in later life through meningitis, but this simply does not cut the mustard. Anyway, long story short: her little sister is hit by a car and killed – all because she was wearing cat ear adorned head-phones to practice her French ahead of their relocation to Paris. Ahhh, the “irony”. The deaf girl’s sister dies because she cannot hear! And the “subtle” symbolism of the black and white cat ears, drawing attention to the “important” role that ears and hearing will play in this “deeply” symbolic film. Yes I was using those parentheses sarcastically. Über-sarcastically in fact.
This film is horrifically melodramatic. They just keep piling on the tragedies. Lily goes deaf from meningitis. Lily and Michelle lose their mother. Michelle gets put into foster care, suffers from bullying at school – the two girls fight to be re-united. Then on the eve of their relocating to gay Paris, Michelle is tragically killed! Talk about over-egging the melodrama.
Anyway, Lily relocates to Cassadaga university to study “art”. I am using parentheses around the word “art” because I’ve never seen such a ludicrous selection of hideously daubed easels masquerading as “art” before. It’s all unhinged sick coloured horses and her sister looking doe-eyed and nauseating. In Cassadaga she moves into the house of a kindly old Lady who smokes pot for medicinal reasons – and her creepy grandson Thomas who “keeps mostly to himself” in the “top of the house.” I don’t know why they don’t just hammer up a sign saying ‘Bates Motel’ and ‘deranged pervert’ right now.
Anyway, Lily Picasso starts teaching art lessons and picks up the father of one of her pupils. Let me just say: nauseatingly “cute” brat alert. It’s all “you’re the best teacher in the whole world Miss Picasso” and “it’s ok you were late picking me up from school today daddy, saving people’s lives is the most important job in whole-wide-world!” Daddy replies: “no, being a good dad is!” Projectile vomit inducing. So Lily Picasso hooks up with America’s-Number-One-Single-Dad … “but wait”, I hear you cry! “Isn’t this supposed to be a horror film?! Only at the moment it’s playing out like an episode of days of our lives!”
Well let’s get something straight: aside from the opening sequence, it will be a good 45 minutes before you see anything remotely horrifying in this film – and that is AFTER you have suffered the soap-opera-style maudlin melodrama being rammed into your face. The scares finally start when Picasso goes out on a date with Single-Dad and meets some chick who has, and I quote, “a paranormal internship” and who starts spouting psycho-babble: one-tenth of a percent of psychics are genuine, the FBI employs them, bla bla bla. Anyway, she takes them to see a group of creepy-mystic types. One is carving an Eiffel Tower, another has no eyes – oh the horror! Lily takes part in some stupid seance and her sister starts chatting to her about how happy she is with her mum – it doesn’t matter that Lily is deaf, the dead don’t need ears to talk…or eyes to hear, or some crap. I’d given up caring. Anyway, the seance goes wrong and Lily starts being haunted by this rank decomposing ghost who appears to have a grudge. At this point, anyone with even the vaguest familiarity with horror films KNOWS this woman was murdered by one of the characters in this film.
Then we see some random woman getting kidnapped. Yes, I know, it is a very messy and confusing film. It hops around more than a flea with ADD: never settling on a tone or style. Who the hell is this film meant to appeal to? As far as I can tell, its target audience would have to be the type of person who enjoys watching Days of Our Lives and Saw in equal measure. So basically no one, or at least no one with any taste.
Oh yes, I mentioned Saw. Why did I do that? Well because when this film decides to get creepy, it goes completely and utterly disgusting. I don’t mean the visuals – which aren’t particularly graphic – but the idea. Because at around the 1 hour mark, we are finally introduced to our serial killer. Basically, this serial killer removes his victim’s arms and legs and then reattaches them – while the woman is still alive and hanging from the ceiling – to create a living marionette.
Beyond this, the scares centre around maggots, putrefied flesh, vomiting and more torture of a defenceless woman. And let me just totally ruin the ending: the creepy-grandson was a total red-herring, no surprise there. What did surprise me was that creepy-single-dad was not the killer. Instead the killer turns out to be some handy-man we see for about 20 seconds halfway through the film. What a cheat! And creepy-single-dad, after all the boring romance, disappears about three-quarters of the way through the film because his kid is more important to him than Lily Picasso. I SWEAR that guy was originally intended to be the killer and the studio made them change it – except for the fact that he and Lily have sex (and we know our serial-killer did a bit of DIY genital adjustment as a child) everything was pointing to him. What was the point of creepy-single-dad? Was he just there to further emphasise who totally and utterly shit Lily’s life is?
Anyway Picasso pieces together where to find Putrid-Girl’s dead body by piecing together visions via her “art”. She’s hidden under the pot-shed of kindly-old-lady and creepy-grandson. Well anyway, as Lily is investigating the Pot Shed – alone, at night (as you do) – Norman Bates shows up and proves conclusively that he is far too retarded to have orchestrated Putrid-Girl’s death. With a good 20 minutes of the film left it hardly comes as any surprise that even once the cops have arrested Norman, Putrid Girl shoes up in Lily’s shower. Oh what could she possibly want?
The nice cop is taking care of Picasso – but the guy is black so he’s clearly going to die before the end of the film (ensuring that no shitty cliché is left unused). Then we discover that the killer wasn’t creepy-dad but the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him gardener, who proceeds to kill good cop and kidnap Lily. What follows is the most ludicrous escape sequence you have EVER seen – she sneaks out while his back is turned, then proceeds to crash her escape car. But it’s all ok because Putrid-Girl turns up and distracts him long enough for Lily to stab the guy with the Eiffel tower. Queue nauseating flash back with little sis. End.
That’s right, we find out absolutely NOTHING about the serial killer. Except that he was able to throw his voice and was clearly nuts. That’s your lot. This film is quite happy to bore you to death with Lily’s soap-opera of a life – but you will find out NOTHING about the psycho at the heart of this film.
Let me just make something clear. I HATE this film. I suppose it was trying to fit into the mould of Twin Peaks or The Gift, 2000 – but it fails so badly. The main reason for this is that the film isn’t scary – instead of trying to merge in disturbing events, tension and fear it opts for gross-out thrills: maggots, puke, torture, rotting flesh. That type of film really isn’t my thing – but even people who do like that style of film: they will not like this! People who enjoy movies like Saw are not going to sit through 45 minutes of Lily’s soap-opera for a few flashes of gross-out horror.
The concept behind the serial killer is genuinely nasty – but that’s all. He is given no depth, no history, no interest. So in the end his exploits are nothing more than vile titillation for the viewer.
I hate a lot of films, but I really HATE this one. It has NO redeeming qualities. About 90% of it is maudlin, melodramatic boredom and 10% of it is vile, disgusting bilge that aims at nothing more than making the audience feel sick. It’s a lazy, unengaging, boring pile of crap. I.HATE.IT.