“Cassadaga,” from Poiley Wood Entertainment and Cassadaga Film Productions, presents a brutally shocking, fast paced, murder thriller that introduces the occult as a means to finally bring an end to a serial killers reign.
Directed by Anthony DiBlasi and written by Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley, “Cassadaga” stars Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, Rus Blackwell, Lucas Beck, Amy LoCicero and Louise Fletcher.
“Cassadaga” opens with a stunning scene as a boy child, dressed in a very short baby doll dress is playing a with marionette puppet, he is caught, stripped and ordered to go out and play, and his mother cuts the dress and the doll into shreds.
Moments later she hears a scream and runs to find the child has severed his genitals. It is a shocking scene and difficult to understand its relevance until later in the film.
It is then that we meet Lily played by Kelen Coleman. She is teaching a children’s art class, speaking clearly and encouraging the children to use sign language. It isn’t until later that we discover she lost her hearing at 14 due to meningitis.
Her sister Michele, played by Sarah Sculco, comes to the door of the art class, they chat for a few minutes and she is on her way. The next scene cuts to the body of the sister laying the street, dead, the victim of a car accident.
At this point Lily is invited to Cassadaga Artists community, by an old friend of her mother’s, to recuperate. She clearly is suffering as her entire family has died.
Which is where we are introduced to Claire, played by Louise Fletcher, who needs no introduction and still, for those without film history she is the infamous Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” for which she won both Oscar and Golden Globe.
Claire, a medicinal pot smoking artist, lives in the ghostly Florida town on an enormous plantation with several buildings. She and Lily’s mother, a concert cellist, were friends. Claire’s nephew, Thomas, played by Lucas Beck, an odd perverted handy man, wants to be a player and only has the courage to engage behind the veil of darkened screen, also lives on the plantation.
“Cassadaga” crosses over to the other side, to the spirit world as it truly is the town of psychics and paranormal activity is considered genuine and Lily meets a parent, Mike, played by Kevin Alejandro, of one of her students. During one of their early dates, they decide to visit, on a dare, a well known psychic. Expecting a free read, the couple and two of his friends decide the price is too steep. Lily agrees to pay. She asks to speak to her sister.
The séance is successful according to the medium played by Avis-Marie Barnes who explains that a evil spirit has manifest itself and Lily should be counseled, for an additional fee, on how to handle the presence.
This is where “Cassadaga” becomes a haunted thriller as the parallel story in this tiny town of Cassadaga, Florida, a serial killer is on the loose and his victims are mostly artists.
“Cassadaga” was filmed on location in the town of Cassadaga, Florida which is known as the psychic capital of the world, and is truly inhabited by many psychics.
In the world of reality verses filmmaking, the séance scene was genuinely authentic. Without offering a personal opinion on the occult, as I don’t dabble, and try not to allow satanic influences, even relying on astrological influences, to creep into my life. The scenes are very realistic and played very well by both the medium Susan/Avis-Marie Barnes and Lily/Kelen Coleman.
In filmmaking every three or four minutes a whammy, those wow or subtle or sometimes subliminal, attention grabbing moments, should be filling the screen, “Cassadanga” is skirting the two minute mark as the whammy scenes are rapid, with shocking events and scenes coming at you in quick succession.
“Cassadaga” is almost a cold case murder thriller as it crosses over to the other side, to the spirit world of those who have been murdered, and inhabits the body of the deaf artist, who paints the images that come to her mind, creating a jig saw puzzle of clues, that will finally bring peace to the soul of the murdered coed, give rest to her family and stop a deranged and psychopathic serial killer.
Even with the séance, which was frightening, “Cassadaga” is well made, truly maintains the storyline, and the attention, it is a popcorn thriller.
“Cassadaga” opens theatrically and on VOD October 11, 2013.