Voodoo Moon (US - DVD R1)
Gabe wishes there was a Voodoo spell to ward off bad, made for Sci-Fi movies..
Seven childhood friends reunite in a small East-Coast town to face down the ultimate evil, once spiritually and physically defeated in their past. Each member of the group has a supernatural power which they will have to utilize to over come the demon menace...
...Oh wait, that's a synopsis of Stephen King's It. Let me try that again.
A young British man with a tortured past learns the mystical ways of a Catholic priest, and couples this knowledge with the mystical ways of a Voodoo priest, in hopes of exorcising evil. He wanders the planet in search of his prey...
...No, no, that's Alan Moore's Hellblazer, which was made into a big budget Hollywood film called Constantine, staring Keanu Reeves.
How about you just mix those two stories together, swap out the Brit with an American, age up those kids, and call the East-Coast the Mid-West. Add a dash of John Carpenter's Vampires, and Stephen King's Salem’s Lot, and you've got yourself Voodoo Moon, a derivative piece of junk featuring bad special effects and worse acting. Did I mention this film premiered on the Sci-Fi channel?
Well shoot, that's pretty much my review right there. There isn't much else to say, but I'll stretch this out a little more if I must.
The film's top three selling points (according to the press release) are as follows: Actor Eric Mabius, actress Charisma Carpenter, and the fact that writer/director Kevin VanHook is a semi-famous special effects supervisor. Personally, I don't know anyone who gets excited about watching a film featuring the star of Crow: Salvation and Resident Evil, and with good cause, as Mabius has the acting range of a paint chip. Buffy and Angel fans may flock to the film because of Carpenter, but will probably get more out of her recent Playboy spread than this two-by-four performance. Besides, she's Mabius' sister in the flick, so there is no (intended) sexual tension.
This leaves us with VanHook, who like Phil Tippet and Stan Winston, has decided to prove he's more than pixels and puppets. This isn't VanHook's first trip behind the camera or the word processor, however, and one might like to think he's learned a thing or two. I've not had the pleasure of watching the director's first two films, but if this film is representative of a marked improvement, I think I may want to steer clear. And you're a SFX man, Kevin, let’s at least see some quality control on that awful digital animation.
I've covered the fact that the story is derivative, and the acting wooden, and the supposedly spectacular effects are lame, so what else is wrong here? Well, it appears the editor was just as enthralled by this mess as I was, and fell asleep at the switch because every single scene goes on far too long. The camera work is entirely uninspired, even if VanHook will have you understand differently on his self-congratulatory commentary track (more on that later). The character dialogue, 99% of which is expositional, is sub-Saturday morning cartoon. Sometimes it feels like VanHook actually wanted to make the film's prequel, given the vast amounts of time and characters he delegates to the extremely thin back-story.
Here's a small sampling of what one can expect from this ode to ineptitude, a critical dissection of a single scene:
Mabius and Carpenter are lost looking for their hometown, and stop to ask a couple of old men directions ("You want to ask for directions? Ok, who are you, and what have you done with my brother?", wow, never heard that gem of a line before). The old men tell them that the town has been flooded, and is now a water reservoir. After far too much text-book 'old-man' dialogue (something about how young folks are always looking for trouble, or some such dreck), one of the elderly exposition machines announces that he has a news paper clipping, and walks over to his tool box to get it, then reads it aloud to Mabius.
First of all, I don't care who you are, if your hometown is turned into a lake, you and/or your sister has heard about. The fact that this comes as a revelation to our main characters is asinine. Secondly, nobody floods a spooky small town because its history freaks them out, and they especially don't use that dead body filled floodwater as drinking water (which is implied). Third, it's not implied that this old man collects newspaper clipping besides this single one, which he keeps in a nearby toolbox. And why can't the audience just take his word for it, or maybe VanHook could simply cut to the following shot of Mabius and Carpenter standing on the shores of their sunken town, complete with a sign? Did we really need to waste our time with such a trivial and pointless sequence, that we've seen a hundred times before?
And this is one scene. The film is full of this stuff. I struggle to find something nice to say at all. I guess that Jeffery Combs fanatics will want to see the film for the man's small role as a zombie cop set on helping Mabius before he can move onto the next life. Combs is pretty hammy, but shows up the entire rest of the cast, including usually dependable stand-bys Dee Wallace (Stone) and John Amos, who seem to have a pretty good idea of how bad the movie is, and don't seem to be willing to exert too much energy considering their director doesn't know the difference between a good or bad performance anyway.
Voodoo Moon looks like a made for TV flick. The image is soft, and has a hint of that weird daytime soap opera look. The DVD is a nice representation of the finished film. Detail levels are high with only a hint of edge enhancement, and even nighttime scenes are entirely discernable. Interiors are occasionally grainy. The overall image is so sharp that it manages to uncover some of the films less-than-stellar make-up effects, including some bullet hits that have no holes, as if shot from a paint gun.
The film's score is ambitious, but thin, and more than a little derivative. There are a few moments of slight inspiration, and this Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes the most of it. The 'special' effects power battles aren't nearly vicious enough. Considering all the fire and brimstone on screen, one might've expected a little sound and fury on the soundtrack. The dialogue is inconsistent, to the point where sometimes a two-character conversation sounds like it was recorded in two different rooms. It's a given that a massive amount of dialogue usually needs to be fixed in ADR, but this is one of the more obvious cases I've come across in a recent film. The mix on a whole is passable, but nothing special.
What's worse than watching a bad movie? Listening to a proud writer/director talk about how much he loves said bad movie. I'm not one for false modesty, but there is something unmistakably conceited about loving one's own work so very much. My eyeballs almost fell out of my skull I was rolling them so often during the DVD's solo commentary track. VanHook has the gall to call his own, flatly delivered, entirely unoriginal lines great. The worst part is that these self praises are often preceded and followed by long, meditative pauses.
At the film's end, a character is impaled on a church's cross spire (as if all the black bird imagery and use of Mabius weren't calling enough attention to the film's penchant for ripping off The Crow films), and surrounded by some of the most unconvincing digital fire I've ever seen. After about a minute of silence, VanHook pompously states, "That's a powerful image". I couldn't believe it. When not praising his work, VanHook is letting us lowly viewers in on some of the trade secrets he's learned over the years, including the use of multiple locations in one scene, and digital composition. Kevin, we all know that was a digital gun and digital bullets, and we really never believed that you drove a truck into a lake. The two-dimensional water effects kind of gave it away.
Those with a real sense of self-hatred will want to move onto the disc's two brief featurettes. The first one is a long trailer featuring actors pretending to be interested in the project, VanHook practically calling himself a cinematic God, and a few fleeting moments of behind the scenes footage. The second featurette is all about the films SFX work, and is mercifully short.
If you really, really can't get enough, you'll want to check out the deleted scenes. There are a lot of them, and the fact that these were the scenes not good enough for this film might lead you to understand their general quality level. The disc is mercy killed by an image gallery, bios, and some Anchor Bay trailers.
Buffy and Angel fans, don't bother with Voodoo Moon. Do yourselves a big favour and just rewatch those old series DVDs. The only good Sci-Fi original movies are the ones featuring title monsters, like Abominable, Frankenfish, and Mansquito, and even those are negligible in quality. Even Jeffery Combs fans should stay away. The only reason to see this DVD is to listen to VanHook's asinine commentary track, and wonder if he's ever seen another movie, besides Constantine, It, Salem’s Lot, and The Crow, of course.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 3rd October 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, You Reap What You Sow, Black Magic, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Photo & Still Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kevin VanHook
Cast: Eric Mabius, Charisma Carpenter, Rik Young, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, John Amos
Genre: Fantasy and Horror
Length: 90 minutes
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