SPELL Review; "Part-MISERY, Part-THE HILLS HAVE EYES...[It] Has Some Legit "Oh, Sh*t!" Moments"

Spell arrives on PVOD and Digital platforms this Friday, and with options limited this Halloween, is this horror movie the perfect choice for Halloween viewing? Find our spoiler-free verdict right here...

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen even horror movies flee from the Halloween period, but that leaves the door open to Spell getting to make a bigger than expected impact when it arrives on Digital platforms this Friday. The movie stars Omari Hardwick (Power) as Marquis, an affluent family man who finds himself injured and trapped in Ms. Eloise's (Loretta Devine) attic after a plane crash. While she assures him that she's just nursing him back to health, things soon take a dark turn, and Marquis is left desperately trying to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.

Like any great horror movie, there is a "MacGuffin," and that's a Boogity, a Hoodoo figure Ms. Eloise has made from his blood and skin which is soon revealed to have some sinister powers. There are admittedly times where Spell falls into some familiar trappings, and it definitely hits one too many familiar beats near the end. Events wrap up a little too quickly and conveniently, and there's at least aspect of the conclusion you'll have seen in a million horror movies before this one. That's a shame, because it weakens an otherwise strong story and is likely to lessen interest in seeing this world potentially expanded on down the line.

Going some way in making up for that is an unmissable, powerhouse performance from Hardwick. The actor is on top form here, and clearly not a talent to sleep on in the next few years (he's already booked a starring role in Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead and is a fan-favourite choice among comic book fans for any number of superhero roles). There's a magnetism to the actor that makes him the perfect choice to take on the lead role in a project like this one. Devine is also fantastic, and while the rest of the cast is fine, it's these two you'll want to stick around for. Combining a motherly charm with a terrifyingly sinister presence, Devine makes for the perfect horror movie villain. 

Now, the important thing for most horror fans is going to be how scary Spell actually is. Rest assured that the tension is palpable throughout, and there are moments which will leave your jaw on the floor. While it's by no means a gore fest, there are scenes you'll be forced to watch between your fingers, and it's easy to become invested in Marquis' escape attempts as the story unfolds. Director Mark Tonderai (House at the End of the Street) is certainly well-suited to the genre as a filmmaker, and successfully manages to deliver some commentary on racism and the class divide between those in the city and countryside. For the most part, Kurt Wimmer's screenplay avoids falling into any clichés or familiar trappings, but Tonderai definitely elevates the material, as does Jacques Jouffret's gorgeous cinematography. The director is going to be worth keeping an eye on, and had Spell taken a few more risks, it might have been hailed as a classic. As it is, it's still very good, but a stronger screenplay and final act would have benefited it greatly. 

With Halloween fast approaching and options limited, Spell should be a must-watch for horror fans, and is a project you'd have been foolish to miss even if Tenet wasn't still pretty much the only option in theaters. There's something about this world that grabs your attention, and you know a movie like this has done a good job when there are moments you can't get out of your head...no matter how much you might want to! 

Part-Misery, Part-The Hills Have Eyes, Spell occasionally plays it too safe, but has some legit "Oh, sh*t!" moments for horror fans and a powerful lead performance from the excellent Omari Hardwick.


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