Blu-ray Review: Spell

Omari Hardwick conveys desperation convincingly and Loretta Devine makes for a wicked villainess.

By , Contributor
The latest horror thriller from director Mark Tonderai (House at the End of the Street, Day of the Dead: Bloodline) bypassed theaters last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spell is now available on Blu-ray (also DVD and Digital HD) via Paramount Pictures. It's the type of easy watch that might have disappointed at full-cinema ticket price, but glides by at home as a sufficient time passer.

Marquis (Omari Hardwick) and his family are flying their private Cessna through a storm in order to attend a funeral. Marquis' father has passed away and the journey will take them into a remote, backwoods area. The bad weather gets the better of them and, after an apparent crash, Marquis wakes up—alone and injured—in the attic bedroom of a strange house. After meeting the super-creepy owners, Ms. Eloise (Loretta Devine) and Earl (John Beasley), Marquis realizes they have no intentions of releasing him. He must devise a way escape and locate his family (if they even survived).

It's a barebones setup, initially recalling Misery until supernatural hoodoo elements are dropped in. It ends up playing a bit like a low-rent Get Out, as Eloise and Earl routinely perform "enhancements" on physically-needy individuals by means of pseudo-medical procedures. To say more would be too revealing—especially considering Spell doesn't really have too many tricks up its sleeve. Tonderai maintains a claustrophobic tension throughout a relatively suspenseful 90 minutes.

Strong performances by Hardwick (who conveys desperation and confusion quite effectively) and Devine (playing a typical "crazy," but with obviously commitment) help bolsters Spell, even if it ultimately feels rather routine. The subtext of Marquis being upperclass and Eloise and company being decidedly lowerclass provides a moderate level of additional interest. Again, no need to spoil the modest twists, but suffice it to say Kurt Wimmer's screenplay explores (though not too deeply) the class divide that separates Marquis from his captors.

Paramount's Blu-ray offers a generous 27 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, plus a pair of above-average 'making of' featurettes: "Rootwork: Conjuring Spell" (18 minutes) and "The Art of Hoodoo" (13 minutes). A third short featurette, "The Nightmare Spell," is more of a standard-issue promo piece.

Definitely worth viewing, even if it's not the most original piece of horror filmmaking around. Spell does indeed cast a spell that keeps it entertaining for a brisk hour-and-a-half.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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