Film Reviews:

Cast a Deadly Spell

(Martin Campbell, US, 1991)

Spoof horror movie made for the HBO cable channel in the US. This is remarkably similar (but inferior to) another HBO-made movie called Witch Hunt. Probably because it was written by the same guy - Joseph Dougherty - who intended Witch Hunt as a follow-up of sorts to this (the 'sequel' is also set a few years later). Both have a nostalgic historical setting (here it is 1948) and both deal with 40s noir-inspired detective stories, only the added extra in each is a supernatural element that is taken as normal. The same characters (albeit played by different actors) also crop up in both films. Cast a Deadly Spell stars Fred Ward as Harry Philip Lovecraft, a small time gumshoe who follows up leads that take him to a gangster who is buying in zombies from the West Indies to labour for him!

The look of the film is stylish, the dialogue witty and it's packed with in-jokes. Some more subtle than others - characters named Bradbury and, the above-mentioned, H.P. Lovecraft - and there's talk of 'the old ones' and the Necronomicon. The alternate-world setting (as with Witch Hunt.) is the film's biggest draw. The performances are pretty good, with David Warner chewing the scenery again, but especially Juliane Moore as Harry's ex-wife. But it is all very lightweight if enjoyable and often funny. It would suffice if you are in an undemanding mood, however fans of H.P. Lovecraft shouldn't get excited about the above references. Trivia fix: Former Michael Myers in the Halloween series, George Wilbur worked as a stunt man on the film. The director is Martin (Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro) Campbell.

Rob Dyer

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