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Cassadaga – (Screamfest) Review

Cassadaga, Florida is the psychic capital of America, known for having a large number of mediums and psychics. It’s the place of solace for a deaf girl named Lily (Kelen Coleman), who retreats and starts her life over after the death of her sister. She goes to school at the local university and takes residence in the sprawling home under the care of Claire (Louise Fletcher) and her masturbatory son. She seeks answers to her sister’s untimely demise in the form of a séance, but instead is connected with the vengeful ghost of a murdered woman named Jennifer Eastman (Amy LoCicero), who through maggots and jarring flashbacks, gives Lily clues to help unravel her murder at the hands of a sadistic serial killer named Geppetto, who killed her four years ago.

Not much is known about Geppetto other than as a young boy he had an obsession with dolls, he liked to dress in girl’s clothes, and is so conflicted with his sexuality that he cut off his penis with a pair of scissors. His lair of torture and pain is loud and obnoxious, a rusted underground workshop full of the tools of his trade, and where he dismembers and reattaches the body parts of his victims, and strings them up like a human marionette – a puppet controlled by wires or strings.

Kelen Coleman, who was just as strong in Children of the Corn: Genesis, carries this film on her back with her natural on-screen presence and dazzling allure. She reminds me of another actress who has acting chops and the girl next door looks – Mädchen Amick. She goes through more wardrobes changes than Lady Gaga, and although she never shows us her goods, she’s a bad mama jama whose body measurements are perfect in every dimension. Her chemistry with emergency medical technician Mike (Kevin Alejandro) and her daughter is genuine and the anchor of the film.

Christina Bach plays a jogger who is abducted by Geppetto, and although her role is brief, she is definitely a talent to keep an eye on and a possible future scream queen.

At the end of the day, Cassadaga is a johnny-come-lately in the post-Jigsaw sweepstakes to find the next horror icon. To accomplish that feat, the story cannot be filed with abused clichés that some horror director’s use today. Loud, ear-piercing screeches and jittery editing generally display a deficiency in skill, but I know this is not true when it comes to filmmaker Anthony DiBlasi, who adapted the Clive Barker short story Dread, a film that deserved a nationwide theatrical release instead of getting the After Dark Horrorfest shaft that the generic Cassadaga should be getting.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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Jason Bene

I’m just an average man/ With an average life/ I work from nine to five/ Hey, hell, I pay the price/ All I want is to be left alone/ In my average home/ But why do I always feel/ Like I’m in the twilight zone

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