MOVIE REVIEW

‘Spell’ doesn’t cast much of a spell

Posted 1/12/21

This is the seventh film in the studio history of Paramount Players, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures formed after Comedy Central stars Jordan Peele (director of “Get Out” and former …

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MOVIE REVIEW

‘Spell’ doesn’t cast much of a spell

Posted

This is the seventh film in the studio history of Paramount Players, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures formed after Comedy Central stars Jordan Peele (director of “Get Out” and former star of “Key & Peele”) and Amy Schumer (star of “Trainwreck” and formerly behind the show “Inside Amy Schumer”), moved their talents to Universal Studios when they felt unwelcome by the former management at Paramount.

“Spell” begins with flashbacks of Marquis’ (Omari Hardwick) childhood, as his abusive father torments him. Soon after we learn he has a wife, Veora (Lorraine Burroughs), and two uninteresting teenagers (Hannah Gonera and Kalifa Burton).

When he learns of his father’s passing, his family begins a trip in a small airplane towards the rural Appalachia to settle his affairs. But soon after, they hit a storm, crashing the plane in the process. Marquis wakes up in a stranger’s home, being greeted by Eloise (Loretta Devine), a mysterious older woman with a seemingly kind demeanor but darker intentions.

The story

What I can absolutely appreciate about “Spell” possibly more than anything else within the film itself is the attempt to make a horror film with Black leads that doesn’t lean on using cultural normalities as a signal of quality. The horror genre, as a whole, is rooted deeply in Black American stories (highlighted in the excellent Shudder documentary “Horror Noire”), for better and for worse, which leads to some films using the inclusion of diverse characters pointless by rooting them deeply in stereotypes.

This film does not do this, the race of the films characters has little effect on the outcome and their actions, which leads to a more normalized diversity in the cast which I wholly appreciate.

Unfortunately, this is one of the only things about the movie I found remarkable in any way, shape or form. The rest of the movie is clearly just a mix of copycat moments from other films, “Misery” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” being the most imitated. There is nothing particularly interesting about the story or characters, which is unfortunate considering the talent they had on hand. Both Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine play off each other well, playing their respective characters with ease. The unremarkable characters can likely be attributed to either the script or on-set story choices because the actors are all clearly hitting their marks.

The video

While I can’t find any concrete information about the cameras used or the mastering resolution, I can pretty confidently ascertain that it was a 2K master. It is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio on a 1080P Blu-Ray. There is some remarkable clarity in close ups, with perhaps some of the sharpest shots I’ve seen from a non-UHD film in a while. The cinematography leans more on the stylized side (think Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain” for color reference) so if you like that creative choice, you’ll like this. It’s very colorful, with very minimal digital noise or artifacts visible.

Overall, this is not a particularly well-made film but I can appreciate certain aspects, including the well-done Blu-Ray release.

Jordan Ryan Lester is a contributor to The Daily Record. He lives in Dunn and can be reached at jryanlester@gmail.com.

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