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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Suggestion of Marquis and his wife embracing while she's in lingerie.
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Exclamatory use of "God," as in "goddamn." Also "f--k," "f---king," "s--t," "ass," "hell," and the "N" word.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.