So funny story — if you read my Thanksgiving classic, “Why I’m thankful for my life as the side chick” then you’ll know that I was once involved in a crazy love triangle with my hot next-door neighbor and his very scary girlfriend. If you didn’t read it, I’ll give you the abridged rundown of the scenario: it sucked. But the intrigue is still on-going: while the two moved away shortly after the triangle hit its limit of obtuseness, I found out recently from Count Franzia, my nocturnal box-wine addicted downstairs neighbor, that the reason for their hasty departure wasn’t just a dispute with their landlord, as my former fuckboy had claimed. As it turns out, the girlfriend was wanting to move to the burbs to settle down. I’m not sure how much of these facts are related, but ever the conspiracy theorist, it all seemed a little too timely. Scary girlfriend practices new age medicine and charge-your-crystals this and that, and coincidentally, since this was all going down in the DM during Halloween time, I had been dabbling into some spoopy shit myself. I may or may not have accidentally put a hex on her; you know, accidentally. My sister even wrote a Candlemass-style song about the whole ordeal called “The Hallowed Hill Witch Wars.” Good lord, if this is your first introduction to my column, I’m so sorry.
Well, it appears my life has been loosely adapted into a major motion picture; the cinematographic achievement of our time, Voodoo, coming to a theater/Amazon video near you February 24. With wavering quality of execution, it looks inside the paranoid mind of every chick that’s ever messed with someone mans. So lay down, strap up, and unclench your asshole; we’re going in.
So this shit starts and I’m already #triggered. Like in every proceeding movie that’s centered around the African diaspora, director Tom Costabile seems to encompass every fear-mongering stereotype of someone’s Creole grandmother sticking pins into the dick of a poppet. Some presumable voodoo queen steels poor little Tanner from the swing set and sacrifices him while screaming “Dani,” the protagonist’s name, through gasps of blood. I’m left befuddled for a couple of reasons — one being the Dani hasn’t been introduced as a character yet, so the curdle of her name, which I suppose is supposed to be a pivotal moment, is no more than a confusing blob of who the fuck cares. Two, there are a hell of a lot of ways to wreak havoc on someone’s life via magic that don’t require child sacrifice. Yeah, sure, ritual is important and all, but a lot of good old energy-channeling can work wonders. But, I suppose that wouldn’t be the kind of spoopy scary skeletons that would get the jimmies easily erect. If nothing else, the way the intenseness of the scene is juxtaposed against Dani blabbering on about the matter like a drunk idiot in the trailer suggests that the naivete is self-aware, but it would be nice to maybe, you know, watch a voodoo-centered film that’s actually somewhat accurate and responsible for once. I’ll go fill out the Kickstarter page.
Cut to the title screen, and that tried and true “hell hath no fury like a scorned woman” quote appears. It becomes clear that Costabile and I can commiserate in the struggle of finding a decent free font, and it becomes even clearer what I’m going to be dealing with for the next hour and a half. In the tradition of B movies, an uncomfortable amount of time is devoted to crediting people like their name are supposed to mean anything to the audience. My denial of how campy this is going to be turns into acceptance as we finally meet Dani, who rolls into L.A.’s Union station looking fresher than a made to order chicken box. She’s super excited to be in California because she’s just a down home girl from Louisi–wait. This bitch took a train from New Orleans to Los Angeles. I’ll buy curse subjection, but that right there is too much to believe. I guess it just shows how down home she is, yeehawwwwwww. And yeehaw, this bitch is, indeed. I would pinpoint her phony Southern drawl to Macon, Oxford, or Houston before I’d even begin to suspect anything Cajun. Double, double toil and trouble; let’s keep this crock of shit bubbling.
So Dani asks her poor cab driver 64 inane questions before arriving at her cousin’s, whose name I forget because who gives a fuck. They both gripe about how the driver didn’t help them carry Dani’s bags up the winding driveway to highlight what entitled bitches they are and it’s conveniently revealed that Dani is going to be staying for a month to get away from it all. After entering the house, very subtle foreshadowing is provided by Dani, who states that “this is the creepiest house I’ve ever been in.” Tell, don’t show is how the saying goes, right? Fuck yeah.
Next, what’s Cali without a little pool hanging, amirite? This scene serves no purpose other than to highlight this film’s Oscar-worthy wardrobe nomination. Dani has on a triangle newsprint two-piece that are #goals straight out of S Club 7 while flirting with some dudes straight out of the “every beer I’ve ever had is on a shelf above my bed” bit from Family Guy. Eventually, afternoon fades and Dani and the cousin go out for a wyld inaugural girls night out sesh. Since we’re clocking in at approximately 2002 and Uber no exist, they manage to piss off another cab driver by smoking a bunch of presumably not dank kush on the way to the bar. After Dani delivers the zinger “I feel trippy…like I’m in Pantera’s basement or something” and I paused things to collect myself, the plot finally starts moving somewhere when it’s revealed why Dani was so eager to skip town — she accidentally fucked some married dude and now his voodoo-practicing wife is cooking up some mumbo jumbo gumbo b/c New Orleans. Unfortunately, since Dani is trying to forget about it, the audience doesn’t get to learn much more. Did she love him? Did he like Crayolas in his butt? Just how married was he, exactly? These were the questions that were haunting me, but were abruptly interrupted by a big celebrity cameo — your friend and mine, Mr. Ron Jeremy.
I guess the guest spot is loosely appropriate since the movie is shot POV because why wouldn’t it be. He gives Dani a card if she’s interested in “being a movie star” and they awkward two-step together on the dancefloor while the camera’s specially angled to highlight Ron’s hotmovies.com t-shirt. Not wanting to validate the cheap advertising ploy by adding to the site’s traffic but giving in anyway for science, I learned it’s one of them pay per minute jobs. As a Millennial, it saddens me that our corporate overlords are still exploiting poor old people that don’t realize that you can get porn for free. If I ever run for public office, that’s going to be my first piece of economic corruption to squash like the predatory lending industry. Lest we forget; Bernie would have won.
Once Ron, Dani, and Cousin Stizz quit dancing (around the plot), the ladies return a-weebling and a-wobbling home and Dani starts to low key hook up with one of the beer bed douches who apparently have just started exercising their squatters’ rights. In the words of Jenna Marbles, jewelry was invented in the 1990’s to tell men “I wanna fuck you,” and man, is Dani exercising this method of coital Morse code. Homegirl got the whole damn set on. You know the one — that card you can get at Ross for $8.99 that has the matching bangles, earrings, and necklaces all included like a goddamned Sandals resort. Dani ultimately decides against going all the with Hunter BECAUSE SHE’S A SWEET, INNOCENT SOUTHERN GIRL (who also fucks people’s husbands) AND WE’RE GOING TO BASH YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT, but not before revealing that she wants to be a filmmaker despite currently being an account executive. *Record scratch* that’s right; she’s an executive, presumably rich, presumably went to college, and this bitch is still catching the Mega Bus and exuding the culture capital of a Nike Monarch IV. NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE. Eventually, while cousin Carlton gets it in with Conner, Dani decides she’s going to call it a night, but not before uttering this gem:
So day two and these hoes are taking it to the beach. Dani asks the cousin in all seriousness why the sparsely-populated Venice boardwalk is so crowded in an attempt to, again, highlight that she’s a small-town girl living in a lonely world (never mind the fact that five minutes on Bourbon will flare up hives in even the biggest extrovert). After be-bopping around, showing off her free with $75 dollar purchase exclusive sequin “angel tote” from Victoria’s Secret, the duo finally makes it to the sand, where they encounter a #truehorror — being ogled by a ragged rando. Like you should do in these situations, Dani leaves the cousin alone so that she can get a corndog and some pixely post-production nonsense pretends to suck up Stizz off the ground for a few moments while she mindlessly sunbathes. I guess it’s supposed to be foreshadowing for the events approaching that night, but it gives off more of a misleading alien vibe than a glimpse into a circle of hell. Tomato, tomatoh. Once the girls start getting crispy they take an obligatory jaunt down Rodeo, where Dani swings suggestively from the street sign. Carlton’s reply? “Two words: Ron Jeremy.”
Some lady selling spoopy amulets yells something about an abortion to Dani and the pair takes off. Eventually, Dani gets a call from her ex-lover and she’s so overwhelmed that they stop in a random parking garage to collect themselves. In what is actually a pretty damn compelling scene, Dani finds out from homeboy that his wife has mysteriously made it to L.A. He doesn’t mention anything about the Mrs. being out for blood, but perhaps either through guilt or a possibility that her innocence is feigned, Dani suspects that the scorned woman is out for blood. She also expresses heartbreaking disappointment (or at least heartbreaking to me because I’ve been in her situation before) that people are only ever going to perceive her as being good for no more than a side fuck, which, in hindsight, makes Ron’s offer to be a pornstar when she wants to be a director serve a purpose. In a highly relatable conversation on garage ground that you can nearly sense the coolness of, the cousin tries her best to comfort her friend, first by trying to dismantle the logic of any paranoid thinking, and then be appealing to dark humor. “We can just kill her,” Stizz says with a laugh — a subtle allusion to what’s in store. It is also at this moment that I realized I have the same shorts as Carlton. Even despite the Ron royalties, Costabile managed to get that budget stretched from Forman Mills to Forever 21. I see you, Geezy.
I was about a bottle of wine in at this point so bear with me, but basically from what I can remember, the load got blown too soon. Suspense was starting to build and then all of the sudden Dani is pulled into some sort of hellish underworld in the basement of Stizz’s house where she’s tortured by the Dark Lord & Friends. It is pretty intense at first, reminding me sort of that scene at the end of National Treasure when Nicky Cage breaks through the tomb and finds all the golden knickknacks. Man, that was my shit back when I was ten and looked like Beans from Even Stevens. However, unlike Treasure, Voodoo overstays its welcome a bit. What starts out as terrifying and inventive grows stale as five minutes turn into twenty-five. You remember that mediocre movie from a few years back, Mama? Probs not because it was one of the most disappointingly unremarkable horror films I’ve seen, mostly stemming from the fact that after the initial reveal of the monster, it quit being scary. By the end, Dani was literally getting raped by Satan and I remained unaffected, having become desensitized during the middle sequence when she’s branded and fails to deliver the Bam-getting-a-dick-on-his-ass reaction I had been bracing myself for.
But then again, maybe that’s just how the allegory of being the side chick goes; an initial high, followed by a big waste of your time. So thanks, Voodoo — I hope you teach your audience some lessons even if they aren’t exactly about voodoo itself.