Cassadaga takes place in the real life town of Cassadaga, Florida which is apparently renown as “The Psychic Capital Of America”. And while there is a psychic character in this serial killer/haunting mash-up, it really doesn’t use it’s location to any sort of real advantage other than to add a little atmosphere to the film. Horror flick opens with a young boy being chastised by his mother for dressing like a girl. She tears up his dress and smashes the puppet he is playing with and he responds by mutilating his privates with a pair of scissors. What a way to start! We then move forward years later to focus on pretty, deaf art teacher, Lily (Kelen Coleman) who is traumatized when her younger sister (Sarah Sculco) is killed in an accident outside her school. Distraught, Lily leaves everything behind to return to art school in Cassadaga, her mother’s alma mater and restart her life. She’s staying with the headmistress (Louise Fletcher), who knew her mom, and her strange reclusive grandson Thomas (Lucas Beck) who likes to watch abusive porn and masterbate in his room. When she starts to see a handsome divorcee (Kevin Alejandro), a date finds them at the home of a psychic whom Lily asks to put her in touch with her dead sister. But it is the angry ghost of a missing young woman named Jennifer (Amy LoCicero) who contacts her instead and thus begins an intense haunting that seems to be forcing Lily into solving her death…and a confrontation with the serial killer who killed Jennifer…a serial killer who may be a lot closer to Lily than she realizes.
Under the direction of Anthony DiBlasi, Cassadaga is an atmospheric and fairly entertaining chiller that combines some familiar elements of both the haunting and serial killer sub-genres and has some very spooky scenes. It’s just that Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley’s script starts to crumble a bit in it’s last act when Lily turns Nancy Drew and starts investigating Jennifer’s death which points possibly to Thomas. She learns to pick a lock like a professional in a matter of hours in order to sneak into Thomas’ room to find some sort of incriminating evidence, in the hopes of appeasing Jennifer’s angry spirit. And to be honest, it gets a little silly. When the killer is revealed it is also kind of hard to believe that they have avoided capture all this time, as they appear to be very sloppy at the whole serial killer thing. Perfect example would be that the killer has a lair in the middle of the woods yet, for some reason, has another one on the school grounds where it is far easier for him to be seen or discovered…such as, let’s say, by a pretty deaf art teacher/student. The killer’s identity is also no surprise as the film gives us very few suspects to begin with and since we witnessed him remove his privates as a child, it makes sense to omit anyone who still has use of their’s from the suspect list. Still DiBlasi does create some very effective and disturbing scenes when we are in the killer’s liar and the climactic confrontation with Lily is tense and a little brutal. Another reason the film works well enough with a lot of familiar elements is, not only the director’s use of those elements, but we have an exceptionally likable heroine in Lily. On a technical side, the production looks good with some nice cinematography and solid make-up and gore effects and a spooky score from Dani Donadi.
Overall the cast are all fine, but it is adorable lead Kelen Coleman who gives us a very sweet yet emotional scarred woman, who turns into a strong and determined heroine when supernaturally inspired. She’s very endearing and we let some of the film’s flaws and plot holes slide, because we want to see her get through this and we like her. Sure it’s a bit far-fetched that she’d pursue this dangerous killer alone, when her haunting episodes cause her new beau to walk away from it to protect the visitation rights with his daughter, but we root for her anyway. I also liked that her being deaf was just part of her character and rarely exploited as a plot device.
So in conclusion, we have a horror/thriller with a lot of familiar, but well used elements, a third act where the story starts to fall apart a little, but a really likable heroine played by a very charming actress. I was entertained by Cassadaga, it could have been better with a tighter script, but it was effective and atmospheric enough to keep my interest and the final confrontation had impact. I think director DiBlasi has a lot of potential, as I did also enjoy his previous horror flick the 2009 Dread, an interesting film about a college psychological experiment that spirals out of control in a horrible way. So he is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on, just as we shall be keeping an eye out for more of the lovely Miss Coleman as well.
F.Y.I. : Keep watching after it ends as Cassadaga also has a post credits scene that hints we may not have seen the last of Lily’s spooky adventures. And to be honest, even with Cassadaga’s flaws, I liked Lily enough that I’d check it out if she does return in a sequel.
3 sexy and haunted heroines!