In the mid-twentieth century, during the rise of the independent horror film, financiers/distributors would often ask filmmakers to have a recognizable name in the cast. Even if the actor was a washed-up has-been, the idea was that this person's mere presence would help to sell tickets. This concept survives to this day, as many direct-to-DVD horror films will contain at least one actor who has achieve some level of fame. However, the inclusion of a known actor does not, nor has it ever, guaranteed a quality film. The rule applies to the new released shocker Voodoo Moon.
Voodoo Moon tells the story of siblings Cole (Eric Mabius) and Heather (Charisma Carpenter). Twenty years ago, their parents were killed when an evil force overtook the residents of their small town. Following that, Heather became an artist, while Cole began studying various religions and has become a powerful exorcist. The pair had been separated for several years, but as the film opens, Cole leaves Haiti and visits New Orleans. There, he warns Heather that the evil which claimed their parents is preparing a major attack. Cole states that he's fought this entity, in various guises, over the years, but it's now time for a final battle.
Cole and Heather return to the area where their childhood home had been and ready themselves to fight. They are soon joined by individuals whom Cole has helped over the years, including Dutch (John Amos), Lola (Jayne Heitmeyer), Ray (Reynaldo Gallegos) and Diana (Kim Hawthorne). Despite the fact that they have Cole on their side, this group is surprised by the might of Daniel (Rik Young) and his legion of evil. The two sides choose their weapons and the battle begins.
As with many low-budget horror films, Voodoo Moon seems to have a lot going for it. As noted above, the cast is littered with familiar faces, including some not mentioned in the synopsis, such as Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, and Geoffrey Wright. The story isn't exactly original, but it has some nice ideas, most notably the notion that not only has Cole devoted his life to finding the thing that killed his parents, but that he's helped others along the way.
It's in the execution of these concepts that Voodoo Moon trips up (and then proceeds to fall down a long flight of steps). Kevin VanHook, who wrote, produced, and directed the film, has a background in comic books, and this clearly shows as there are some very nicely framed shots here. (There's an especially nice one in the church scene where the priest is in the extreme foreground.) VanHook also edited the film and this is where many of the problems lie. I can't (completely) accuse the film of being slow-paced, but the pacing is notably choppy. Scenes begin and end on odd notes and there are several moments where characters look as if they are about to say something, but don't. The problem with the editing really becomes apparent during the finale, when the battle that we've all been waiting for takes place. Instead of being an action-packed free for all, the fight feels like a football game where a time-out is called after every play. One person does something...pause...and then the other person does something...pause... This approach sucks any possible excitement out of this scene and totally deflates the film.
These editing issues only accentuate the film's other problems. While the film's main premise is solid, the details are fuzzy. We are never shown the attacks on Cole and Heather's parents, we only get bits and pieces of the story through dialogue. It's never exactly clear who Daniel is, in that is he simply an evil spirit or is he Satan? There's also no answer on where Daniel found an army of zombies. At one point, a dead character arrives at the house where Cole and his friends are staying. The viewer's initial question is "Is this walking corpse there to hurt Cole?", but it quickly becomes, "Doesn't anyone notice that this dude is dead?" (If so, there very cool with it.) What's the deal with the little girl in the cemetery? And in a rare movie, the ending is telegraphed at the 17:52 mark and at 1:06:15 point, we pretty much know for sure how the flick is going to end. In its defense, Voodoo Moon never looks like a cheap movie, save for a cornfield which is prominently featured in the movie. It look as if it was planted by Ed Wood's Landscaping Company.
Those who are familiar with the cast of Voodoo Moon (most especially fans of Angel or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer who want to see what Charisma Carpenter is up to these days) may be tempted to check out the movie. Be prepared for a film where both "voodoo" and the "moon" are mentioned, but it's essentially boredom and confusion which overtake the movie.
Voodoo Moon slowly battles its way to DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks pretty good, as the image is sharp and, for the most part, clear. The picture is free from any overt grain and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look fine, most notably the blues used in the visual effects. However, the nighttime scenes are noticeably dark and the action is hard to see at times. There is some visible artifacting (especially during those dark scenes) and some mild video noise.
The Voodoo Moon moon DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track delivers some nice surround sound and subwoofer effects during the "jump" scares. Otherwise, the audio is fairly standard. The stereo effects are serviceable and musical cues fill the rear speakers.
This DVD carries a smattering of special features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from writer/director/producer/editor Kevin VanHook. Not sounding terribly excited, VanHook delivers a very matter of fact commentary where he describes the making of the film. He touches on locations, story, casting, and technical issues without ever getting bogged down in any one subject. "You Reap What You Sew -- The Making of Voodoo Moon" is a 12-minute featurette which features comments from the cast and crew (although Charisma Carpenter is noticeably absent). They discuss the story and the characters, without ever delving into script specifics or the productions. This segment does features several clips and some behind-the-scenes footage. "Black Magic -- Creating the World of Voodoo Moon" (4 minutes) focuses on the visual effects and stunt work in the film (there's a whole lot of green screen going on!). The DVD contains 3 DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. Actually, only one of the scenes could be considered a deleted scene, while the other two are simply existing scenes with a few seconds of new footage. The extras are rounded out with TALENT BIOS and a GALLERY.
There was a time when Anchor Bay was responsible for brining classic and obscure horror films to DVD, such as the works of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. But recently, they've become an outlet for Sci-Fi Channel movies like Voodoo Moon. Some may find the film to be low-budget entertainment, but I found it to be ridiculous and obtuse.