• Spell (Paramount Pictures) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Paramount Pictures
    Released on: January 12th, 2021.
    Director: Mark Tonderai
    Cast: Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine
    Year: 2020
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    Spell – Movie Review:

    Directed by Mark Tonderai working from a script by Kurt Wimmer, 2020’s Spell stars Omari Hardwick as Marquis T. Woods, a fabulously wealthy lawyer who grew up poor but who has made quite a life for himself since becoming an adult. When he learns that his abusive father, who he hasn't seen in years, has passed away he decides to take his Veora (Lorraine Burroughs), son Ty (Kalifa Burton) and daughter Samsara (Hannah Gonera) back to the remote Appalachian region where he grew up.

    Marquis decides to fly them out on his private plane but a freak storm causes the plane to crash. When Marquis wakes up, he's seriously injured and has no idea where he is. It turns out that some local weirdos - Earl (John Beasley), Eloise (Loretta Devine), and Lewis (Steve Mululu) - found him and took him back to their place to nurse him back to health. They claim he was the only one in the plane, his family seemingly vanished into thin air. Unable to use his legs and starting to, quite understandably, freak out about his situation, Marquis has to gather his wits and try to figure out how he can get out of this situation and what happened to his wife and kids.

    Spell is a hyper-stylized movie, frequently using colored gels, diffused lighting and even a switch to black and white to accomplish its visual goals. Sometimes this works quite well, other times it feels like a bit much, but it is at least an interesting movie to look at. Tonderai has good control over the pacing, letting us get to know the characters well enough to keep them interesting, and there are some scenes of decent suspense here as well. It’s just a shame that the end result is so predictable and that aspects of the movie wind up feeling repetitive. Much of the picture’s running time is made up of Marquis figuring something out, then predictably getting hit with a new setback. We know where this is heading before the characters in the movie do and that takes some of the fun out of what should have a pretty spooky horror picture.

    Still, the acting isn’t bad at all. Hardwick is a solid lead, playing the part pretty believable and showing good range. The supporting cast that play his family members don’t get nearly as much screen time but they too do solid work here. Beasley and Mululu make for sufficiently quirky heavies and Loretta Devine is very good in her part as the matronly and mystical Eloise. A few moments of stronger horror might make viewers squirm a bit, which is never a bad thing when watching a horror picture. Overall, this is entertaining enough that you could wind up doing a whole lot worse than spending ninety-minutes with it, but you probably won’t be rushing back to see it again any time soon.

    Spell – Blu-ray Review:

    Spell arrives on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen and taking up 22.7GBs of space on the 50GB disc. This was shot digitally with a bit of a budget behind it and it looks excellent. There’s obviously no print damage or grain to discuss, the image is perfectly clean – pristine, really. Detail looks very strong throughout, especially in close up shots, though sometimes when those really stylized moments kick in it fades a bit, all of which is obviously intentional. Otherwise, the picture here is very strong, with excellent color reproduction, strong black levels and no issues with any noise reduction or compression artifacts.

    Audio options are offered in a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track and in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. The lossless track is excellent, spreading out the score and the effects really nicely and anchoring things with a deep, strong low end. Dialogue stays clean throughout the score sounds excellent. No problems with any hiss or distortion, as you’d expect from a recent movie from a major studio. There are some times where you wish some of the effects had a bit more punch behind them, but otherwise this sounds great.

    Extras start off with twenty-seven-minutes of deleted scenes: Alternate Opening, Words Aren't Enough, Money Can't Getcha Everything, Blood In Urine, I'm Coming For You, There You Go, Come Back, Big Lewis, Wreckage, The Surgery, Baby Pig, Under The Porch, Doctor On The Run, It's Not My Blood and an Alternate Ending.

    There are also a few featurettes included here. The three-minute The Nightmare Spell is a strange look at the new reality that the Marquis wind up in. More substantial is the eighteen-minute Rootwork: Conjuring Spell which is a making of featurette that is made up of interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, explorations of the different characters that populate the film and other related bits and pieces. It does a decent job of showcasing what all was involved in creating this film. The thirteen-minute The Art Of Hoodoo provides some background information on what Hoodoo is, its origins, and how it ties in to the locations featured in the movie itself.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided and this release comes packaged with a slipcover as well as an insert card containing a code redeemable for a digital HD download version of the movie.

    Spell - The Final Word:

    Spell turns out to be a good, not great, modern take on folk horror and the like. The acting is good, there’s impressive technical polish evident with the production and it has some moments of nice atmosphere. It just isn’t as original as you might hope, and it winds up being a bit on the predictable side. Paramount’s Blu-ray release offers an excellent presentation and some decent extras as well. All in all, a nice release for a film that offers decent entertainment without really being a ‘must own.’

    Click on the images below for full sized Spell Blu-ray screen caps!