A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: October 30, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: January 12, 2021
- Cast: Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, John Beasley, Steve Mululu, Lorraine Burroughs, Hannah Gonera, Kalifa Burton
- Director: Mark Tonderai
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
- Last updated: September 5, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love scares
Find more movies that help kids build character.
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch