Anchor Bay // 2005 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 12th, 2006
Evil is reborn by the light of the moon.
Eric Mabius (Resident Evil) and Charisma Carpenter (Angel) star in this tale of faith, vengeance, and computer-generated lightning shooting out of fingertips.
Mabius plays Cole, a badass dude in a trench coat who has a big scar on his face and long, greasy hair. He has made it his mission to track down a particularly nasty demon spawn named "Daniel" (Rik Young). Daniel is responsible for a massacre years ago in a small town that took out Cole's parents. Since then, Cole has been on a globe-trotting manhunt, immersing himself in all manners of religion and superstition, while perfecting his righteous demon-smiting powers.
After some hair-raising adventures in Haiti, Cole reunites with his sister (Carpenter), and the two embark on a road trip to their former home. But what awaits them will be more than a bout of nostalgia -- Daniel is poised to put the endgame in motion.
There are some real hokey moments in Voodoo Moon, but for the most part, it works as a cheeky alternative to typical horror gunk. The best stuff occurs at the beginning, as the film builds the suspense toward would ultimately be an overblown and ultimately disappointing conclusion. Writer/director Kevin VanHook plays with ideas of faith and good and evil (mixing in some new age, relativistic hodgepodge, too, but whatever), and right away sets up Cole as the touchstone for all these elements.
It's a lot to bear, but Mabius is up to it, and he shoulders the responsibility of being the main character well. In fact, Mabius's Cole is pretty much the only interesting character (outside of a weird performance by Jeffrey Combs as a broken-necked cop). Charisma Carpenter will always hold a special place in my heart because of her involvement with the Whedonverse, and she's fantastically sleazy in Veronica Mars, but the only role she seems to occupy here is hapless victim and occasional exposition foil. She doesn't have that much to do, though a glance at the deleted scenes reveals that a lot of her stuff was cut. Rik Young goes for the Eurotrash supernatural villain, but does little to sell "sinister" to me.
So, for the most part, we're dealing with cat-and-mouse game, with Cole and Daniel on either side, looking to make a play and bring the other down. Like I said, the build-up is cool, and the mythology that VanHook submerges the story in is entertaining, but when the @#$% goes down the film starts to unravel. But not in the narrative. What falls apart is the suspension of disbelief, which is crushed thanks to the lame -- but valiantly produced -- visual effects. There's really no way around this, though, as the script calls for giant climactic flame-ridden showdowns and bolts of electricity flying every which way, and VanHook and company do their best, but nothing brings you crashing into reality, recognizing that "Man, I'm watching a low-budget horror film" than below-average computer effects work. It's probably not a fair criticism, but when you pit your two main characters against each other, floating over a lake, shooting fireballs and laser beams out of their hands, you're going to need the budget to make it all work.
I still don't think this all enough to give Voodoo Moon a failing grade. While there are a lot of familiar things (that last scene conjured up flashbacks to Dark City and a couple of scumbags walked around without their flesh a' la Hellraiser), I think VanHook has tried to do something original and entertaining, and for the most part he succeeds. For the most part.
The DVD is typical of the decent Anchor Bay standard: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. The film looks and sounds good, though the crispness of the transfer exposes those CGI shortcomings. For extras: a low-key director's commentary, two short behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a still gallery and a DVD-ROM accessible screenplay.
If you want a break from the typical direct-to-video slashfests, give this a whirl. It's got its flaws, but you'll get your money's worth.
Not guilty. (Insert "moon" pun here).
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "You Reap What You Sow: The Making of Voodoo Moon"
* "Black Magic: The Stunts, Make-up and Visual Effects of Voodoo Moon"
* Still Gallery
* Screenplay on DVD-ROM
* Deleted Scenes