Spell

Movie review by
Monique Jones, Common Sense Media
Spell Movie Poster Image
Gory horror has unclear ideas about Blackness, spirituality.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Courage can help you fight back in scary situations. Promotes self-acceptance and problem-solving. On the downside, reinforces stereotypes and colorism.

Positive Role Models

Marquis shows courage and ingenuity in saving his family from Eloise. But movie includes stereotypes about Black life in rural United States, portrays voodoo and its practitioners in an iffy way, separating the practice from its original spiritual origins. Represents voodoo in stereotypically evil sense, reinforcing Western thought about non-Abrahamic religions and spiritual practices. And the film's "good guys" are lighter skinned than a majority of the "bad guys," evoking Hollywood's history of colorism.

Violence

Echoes of physical and verbal abuse from Marquis' childhood are heard at beginning of film. Murder and gore, including a large iron nail driven into a foot. Violence toward animals is suggested in one of Eloise and Earl's voodoo revivals. Marquis eats what he believes is stewed meat, but it's actually a loved one's body part, leading Marquis to vomit. It's suggested that while Marquis was incapacitated from Eloise's magic, she collected his semen for the creation of Marquis' boogity, a clay figure similar to a voodoo doll. If so, this could suggest that Eloise committed sexual assault toward Marquis.

Sex

Suggestion of Marquis and his wife embracing while she's in lingerie.

Language

Exclamatory use of "God," as in "goddamn." Also "f--k," "f---king," "s--t," "ass," "hell," and the "N" word.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spell is a horror film that centers on a man named Marquis (Omari Hardwick), who must escape from rootworker Eloise (Loretta Devine) before he's used in a voodoo blood moon ritual. He uses his buried childhood memories to battle against her magical tactics. Expect plenty of gore and disgusting moments, including a character removing a large nail from his foot, and then driving it back in to feign incapacitation. There are also many suggestions of parental abuse and violence toward animals. The latter comes complete with disturbing imagery, such as a man using a goat's gouged eyes to see. People are killed, and even cannibalism is part of Marquis' torture. Also noteworthy is the tone the film takes about the practice of voodoo, a complex spiritual practice with roots in West African Vodun. But the film doesn't explore voodoo's facets. Instead, it focuses primarily on Western ideas about voodoo, including the stereotype that voodoo is synonymous with evil. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnabayb December 16, 2020

Recommended to watch

Great come back after they went up to the sky to visit another land.
Climax of thriller and suspense throughout the come back.
Ending is well too.
Gruesome and... Continue reading
Adult Written byJustice23 November 26, 2020

SPELL movie review

Slow paced and cringeworthy comedy sarcastic writing but Omar's acting is outstanding as usual he crashes his plane and tries to escape some voodoo ritual... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In SPELL, Marquis T. Woods (Omari Hardwick) takes his family -- including his wife, Veora (Lorraine Burroughs); his daughter, Samsara (Hannah Gonera); and his son, Tydon (Kalifa Burton) -- to Appalachia for his father's funeral. But a thunderstorm causes the family's plane to crash, leading to Marquis waking up in the attic of Eloise's (Loretta Devine) home. After discovering Eloise's creepy dealings with rootwork, including her creation of a boogity (a voodoo doll) in his image, Marquis must turn to his childhood knowledge of voodoo -- knowledge he's run from his entire life. It's his only chance to escape the clutches of Eloise; her husband, Earl (John Beasley); and their farmhand, Lewis (Steve Mululu) and save his family before the blood moon ritual, which will fortify Eloise, Earl, and Lewis' immortality. 

Is it any good?

Spell seems confused about what it wants to say about Blackness, if it wants to say anything at all. The movie is directed by Mark Tonderai, who's Black, and written by Kurt Wimmer, who's White. Writers from any racial background can write stories with characters of color, but it's important for writers to do research and have empathy for the culture they're representing. Yes, the film is scary and entertaining, with Devine playing spectacularly against type as a villain. And it tries to make commentary on self-acceptance/accepting your past, since Marquis has to come to terms with his turbulent childhood with his voodoo-obsessed father in order to defeat Eloise and her disciples. But beyond the entertainment, head-scratching moments reign.

For instance, Veora gets more offended by Tydon using the term "country ass" to make fun of a Black teenager than when he uses the "N" word to describe the same person. Also, the film's "good guys" are lighter skinned than a majority of the "bad guys," who are darker skinned, evoking Hollywood's history of colorism. And voodoo is flattened into a base-level demonic religion instead of being shown as a misunderstood African spiritual practice. Here, voodoo is both stereotyped and imbued with supernatural powers, such as causing a cat's tongue to give a woman her speaking ability back and a goat's eyes being used for a blind man. Ultimately, the film seems like it uses the trappings of Black culture simply because that's now popular in horror, not because the film's writer had something poignant to say about Blackness in America. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about exploring the histories of different world religions. Why is it important to learn about a wide variety of spiritual practices?

  • What seems stereotypical about Eloise's use of voodoo? If you don't already know more about the history of voodoo, how could you find out?

  • Did you notice any stereotypes about Black life in the rural United States?

  • What messages are present about self-acceptance? Courage?

  • What messages does the film give regarding colorism?

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