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I caught this film at the NY Independent Film Fest in LA and, not knowing
much about the film I took a gamble on the excellent poster (not the one
shown here but the voodoo doll one).
Wow! Did the gamble pay off!
This movie has it all - superb acting, directing and script. It keeps you
the edge of your seat from start to finish.
What this film lacks in blood it makes up in depth of characterisation and
story layers - the old lady's suicide pact with her dead husband, the
psycopathic nanny, the insensitive businessman etc. etc. It'll keep you
guessing until the end.
It's been a week now since I saw this movie and I can't stop talking about
If you're into slashers or zombie movies then this isn't likely to be for
you but if you like European supernatural thrillers - GO SEE
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember as a youngster, the very idea of voodoo was terribly creepy.
Zombies and dark sweaty bodies, insane eyes glaring out from behind
skull-like make-up. The strange wildness of the night, fire, jungle,
rendered into the human world, in a sort of similar terror to the alien
nightmare of the serial killer. The werewolf maybe. The sensual madness
lurking just below our thin veil of civilisation.
Sadly, London Voodoo doesn't even come close. I was hoping for something which would help me revisit all those delicious old fears, but unfortunately the film entirely missed the mark.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think this is a good film. Well written, well acted, unusual subject matter for the horror genre of the moment, so in its way original. But I think it suffered unfairly from cheap production values, and an inattention to detail which gave it more of the feel of a made-for-TV drama than a horror film.
Some horror film makers succeed in getting out there and making something really scary, moody, atmospheric, for very little money. Blair Witch, Raimi's early films, etc. In those films, the low budgets actually prove a boon, as bad lighting etc can add an extraordinary atmosphere. London Voodoo, however, looks as though it's been shot on betacam (although it's probably Digital Vid), and the whole film is stark, ordinary. Looks like an episode of Neighbours or Eastenders.
As to horror. The scary voodoo practitioners, the terrifying voodoo priest with his top hat and snake? Well, nowhere to be found. We're instead, I think, meant to be frightened by the ordinary family falling apart, to imagine the horror in the unseen, the collapse of the ordinary. However the lack of shadows, of darker spaces, in the very look of the film make that very hard to do.
I will say, however, that although I emphasise this, it was really a single problem, and otherwise the film was very well done. The performances were excellent, the writing was very good (except the annoying nanny character who was really just a cliché and a distraction), and the direction was fairly good. A brave effort, I think, but one which doesn't really succeed in what it set out to achieve.
Oh, and although the acting was good, the American accents were disgraceful. I mean, if you're not going to get actual Americans, why bother?
Whilst Rob Pratten has to be commended for making a truly independent british horror film, the end result, like most British independent horror films is a mixed bag in which the film makers undeniable talent and ambition is compromised by a lack of resources and self restraint. Lifting several cliched ideas from The Omen and Amityville Horror, London Voodoo tells the tale of an unlikely American couple who move to London in an attempt to salvage their relationship, but whose fortunes take a turn for the worse when they discover that their new home is haunted by a voodoo spirit. Whilst you can see the commercial logic in writing american characters into the lead roles, the unknown, ex-pat actors that Pratten cast, both deliver uncharismatic leaden performances and their characters are written in such a heavy handed, unsympathetic way that unfortunately this debut effort falls at the first hurdle. Once you get over this initial disappointment, there are moments and contributions that suggest what could have been, particularly Trisha Mortimer as the 'love-keeper' who manages to breath life into Prattens inconsistant dialogue and Voda Barnes who although over-written is suitably sexy as the Au-Pair. Comic relief is provided by the two decorators and supporting afro-carribean cast add flavour to otherwise dull proceedings. Also worthy of note are the businessmen in the office scenes, which demonstrate that when Pratten is not trying to make a load of spookery convince, he's actually quite a good writer/director. Shot hand held on 16mm with basic lighting the film has the look of a television special, the locations are functional as opposed to aesthetic and the synthesised score home-spun and cliched. The best production values can be found in the voodoo paraphanalia which suggest authenticity and a great deal of research. At 98 minutes the film is too long and would benefit tremendously from a ten minute trim, particularly the scenes where various voodoo practioners stop the narrative dead to deliver pages of expository mumbo jumbo in an attempt to give some kind of spiritual context to the proceedings. I gave this film 4 out of 10, shows promise but must try harder.
A movie that you pick only if you have no IMDb access at that very
moment, as i did not, and be lured by the graphic work of the cover and
the marketing gibberish that went into it. I can only get angry with
myself to pick this one based on above.
Could Mr. Pratten redeem my 2 hours since i was not smart like one of the earlier reviewers and not just switched off after the first 10 goofs in first 10 minutes? or bad script? definitely terrible directing?
I can hardly throw away an old sock, such a terrible collector i am, but this DVD will be given away as a tip at this week's worst service restaurant! Befitting punishment!
Watch it only if you are in the set of mind to make fun of a movie, and this is a great bargain and you'll have lots of laughs!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
hello - what makes this film get any awards? Sorry, it's just that, at
the very least, I'd like a movie to be believable. But right from the
start this fails in the most basic ways. Firstly, the wife finds a body
or bodies. Gee, the husband seems okay that the police not be called -
afterall the wife reckons the bodies are 'old'. Gee, that's enough for
the husband to want to let wifey keep her bodies in the cellar, and to
keep her happy. Unbelievable. And then, as if this weren't enough to
swallow, suddenly there's a knock on the door with a guy warning the
hubbie the wifey's been possessed. Luckily I did not see it in some
trendy art film festival - i would have burst out laughing.
I turned this awful movie off after that - enough is enough. Clichés galore in the first few minutes.
One of the worst films I've seen (but not the worst so I'll give it
It's clear that someone spent a lot of time and effort making this film but I must admit it just didn't do it for me. The various camera experiments didn't really pay off, it's still got that kind of daytime drama feel to it, (great for daytime dramas, not so good for films) and the less said about the painful slow motion scene the better.
A couple of the plot lines were more than a little ridiculous and generally the story was fairly poor. The script was only rescued by the comedy builders with their refreshingly bawdy banter. (There were other parts of this film that amused me but I don't think they were meant to.)
If you want a good Voodoo film then try Skeleton Key, it's a bit glossy Hollywood but it's better than this.
Wow this was the best acting in a film that i have seen in ages, best
actor award definitely goes to the 2 year old girl. She was awesome. I
have to say the best part of the
film was definitely the credits! well done and congrats on the
DVD cover, it sucked me into watching this comedic film! I recommend a viewing audience of no one. i also recommend acting lessons for the cast except for the little girl she will be a star in no time.
Please do not make a movie again like this. Sometimes i wish that i had a genie, so that i could wish that i had never seen this film. Or i could wish that i had made this film with the 20 dollars in my wallet and made a better film than this. Then again i don't have 20 dollars! or i could also wish that a voodoo doll came with the film, so that i could play with it and not watch the film.
I often wonder when I read other sour reviews of excellent films posted on this site, what is going on through the confined and jaded thinking of some folk! I was lucky enough to catch the premiere of London Voodoo at the Fearless Tales Genre Fest in San Francisco this winter 2004 and was literally glued to the screen! For the first time since 1987's The Believers, and 1988's Serpent and the Rainbow, comes a stylish, authentic and urban tale of voodoo, possession, exorcism and redemption. London Voodoo is a film, much like Rosemary's Baby, in that it takes its time telling its story in order to reveal it's many hidden surprises.
Manahattanites Lincoln (Doug Cockle) and Sarah (Sarah Stewart) move to London with their baby and take up residency in a poshy reconverted old townhouse - not knowing that their new (but old) home, especially the basement, has a very serious past. Settling into their new lifestyle, Lincoln establishes his executive career with a popular high-end company in midtown. Meanwhile, Sarah and her baby are left alone in an environment that is not only foreign, but also extremely lonely -and director Robert Pratten does wonders with his leading lady by slowly revealing her American neurosis of the classic misplaced 'Yankee' in a new country.
With construction work going on throughout their new home, Sarah soon discovers a dark secret entombed in the basement. And this is where the film really takes off!
London Voodoo offers it all. Mystery and intrigue soon turn to paranoia and mounting terror. I'm not going to reveal any more of the storyline - you have to see this one for yourselves! The supporting cast, especially Trisha Mortimer, Sven-Bertil Taube and the vampy Vonda Barnes only add to the great atmosphere and subplots of the film. It's easy to see why director Robert Pratten won Best Director at the Fearless Tales Genre Fest. His attention to detail - especially his knowledge of the very intricate practices of voodoo, white and black magic and spells, is a lesson in itself.
And also noted is that his amazing ensemble' cast won the Best Acting accolades at the same festival- with kudos going to Cockle and Stewart.
Finally a creepy tale that relies on real actors - and not 'stars'. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but horror movies should always put characters first to pull you in before unleashing its fright upon the audience.
Much like the more polished fright flicks of the sixties such as Curtis Harrington's Games (1967), and even Freddie Francis' Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), London Voodoo is a cerebral and stylish foray into the horror/voodoo genre . chilling without showing much, therefore leaving a lot to the imagination - but trust me - you'll jump!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'London Voodoo' is a story about a corporate New Yorker who moves to London with his wife and child. The wife discovers the remains of a voodoo shrine in the cellar of their London apartment with very predictable consequences. While voodoo is normally associated with creole culture in the southern United States, London's vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture also maintains some remnants of voodoo practices. The minimal cultural differences between Britain and the US begs the question as to why US actors were needed in this film in the first place. The acting is amateur and wholly unconvincing. Movie fans will be sympathetic to what the movie is trying to achieve. However, this movie is destined for the bargain basement.
`Modern Classic' was once an oft over-used term and thank goodness we
hear it so often any more. However. If ever there was a film that so aptly
fitted the title, it is surely Robert Pratten's London
If most genre films of recent times are fast food - easily consumed, a fleeting moment of satisfaction and then just as quickly forgotten (often regurgitated?!) - London Voodoo is a banquet that starts, if a little precariously, with a mouth-watering entrée, builds to a sumptuous main course and climaxes with a glorious, delicious dessert. The film ends and you sit bloated in your seat unable to move for having overindulged. London Voodoo works on so many levels that I probably need to see the film again to appreciate all the detail invested in it. Every character is a real character. Every location feels like a real location.
But is it a horror film? Well.yes, it is. It certainly belongs to that sub-genre known as `yuppie nightmare' - attractive young couple move into new house and life falls apart - but David Morrell tells us that horror > fear. On this measure I believe the film has traded fear for intrigue, suspense and wonderment. Probably those less accustomed to watching horror films than I might find the film scary but for this viewer, desensitised from years of blood and gore, I found myself more in amazement than fear. Amazed that someone would come forward to reclaim the horror film from the MTV/Cabin Fever generation and use the genre to deliver a message about family values.
I am very grateful for Robert Pratten and his wife to have shared the film with the World Horror Con in Phoenix and I'm pleased to repay this gratitude with a review that I hope will encourage others to seek out and discover this film. If you like the films of Roman Polanksi, Peter Weir, Nick Roeg or Joseph Losey then you should check-out London Voodoo and discover a filmmaker that I hope will continue to make such important contributions to this genre that I love.
I believe - and, pray - that this is a milestone film for 21st century horror.
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