Currently, in Hollywood, there is a much needed diverse renaissance at play. Once upon a time, in the opening of Scream 2, the lack of diversity in cinema truly struck me as much then as it does now. Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s characters talk about what movie she wants to see versus what he wants to see. She even points out, “the horror genre is historical for excluding African-American elements.” Not to mention, this was a genre where primarily anyone who is African-American died first. Thankfully now, we see films where this does not occur at all, or rarely anymore. Viewers can watch movies such as Us, Bad Hair, and now Spell and see that diversification is not only needed but a significant move forward within the genre.
Spell is about a man, Mark (Omari Hardwick), whose father dies and finds himself going back to his rural hometown for the funeral. However, along the way, as seen in the trailer, Mark and his family endure a plane crash. Upon being discovered by an elder woman, Eloise (Loretta Devine), Mark feels that his troubles are over. However, much to his surprise, his problems are merely starting. The film features a predominantly Black cast and features a culture that most of us have never heard of before. While most people know about voodoo, Spell explores Hoodoo, which is also known as Haitian Voodoo.
While some initially might want to chalk Spell up as another horror film, there is far more to it than lore than most of us have never experienced. However, that was a big part of it for me. Having a friend who does believe in voodoo, these nuances revealed to Hoodoo truly intrigued me on multiple levels. The boogity, the doll Eloise shows Mark in the trailer, is supposed to help him as it helps everyone in their community. This doll is much like a voodoo doll. When you use it for good, the boogity provides growth and prosperity into one’s life, but if someone gets their hands on your boogity, they can cause your life to go the exact opposite direction.
In many ways, Mark Tonderai’s Spell reminds me of what would happen if Bill Paxton’s Frailty and Stephen’s King Misery had a baby and threw in a pinch of Kevin Smith’s Red State. Each side has a reason they believe in what they think. The film evokes emotions that all of us have if we were in the same predicament as Mark. Does he believe in Eloise, or does he hold out hope that somehow he will escape her grasp? With these questions, there are many more that arise within the feature for our protagonist as well. In this case, it’s particularly interesting to see someone primarily known as playing the antagonist and vice versa. And seeing Loretta Devine in a role that is not squeaky clean startles the viewer and drives fans deeper into the world.
Religion and spirituality is such a driving force in people’s lives. Both of which can cause them to do what they feel is right in the name of their lord. We’ve seen wars fought over both. We’ve seen the same on the news over the years. Ultimately though, no one in their own life dubs themselves the villain, especially following their spirituality. Anything involving their god means that their actions are justified. History might later tell a different story, but there is always going to be someone with the same belief that understands the story’s side, none of us want to understand.
And we don’t want to understand it not because we do not believe in a higher power, but because most of us do not want to consider our god would take us down such a dark path. Regardless, this subtext is riddled within the character development throughout the film. The desire to know the truth plays a large part that ultimately relies on Mark’s hope. However, to survive, he must blend the knowledge presented to him with the knowledge of the man he’s become to escape the sinister world lurking around every corner before him.
Spell arrives in select theaters and at-home on PVOD on October 30, 2020.