This October, my girlfriend and I decided to try to fit in 20-30 horror movies one or both of us have never seen. Seeing as how much Elm Street has been on my mind lately, it was only fitting that the first movie on the agenda was from Wes Craven himself. Seeing as how much I love voodoo imagery and lore (we seriously need more movies on this subject), this really was the perfect movie to start off an October full of wonderful new cinematic treats.
As for the movie itself, I enjoyed it, but it definitely could have been better. Bill Pullman is always just sort of mediocre, and I felt his casting here was slightly off, considering how much fear and psychosis should have gone into this role. Instead, it just seemed like he should be delivering redundant speeches about aliens attacking, or Casper would pop up and it have it turn into a lighthearted treasure hunt. Additionally, you can call me racist if you want, but I found a lot of the Haitian characters hard to differentiate from each other. So much so, that I forgot who were supposed to be the bad guys until they started cracking bones and putting spiders on people's faces. Still, I eventually sorted this stuff out, and this made me feel that a rewatch is definitely in order sometime in the future. Thankfully, we own this on DVD; it's on a collection with Funhouse, Phantasm II, and Ssssssss (arguably the greatest film title in all the land).
When it comes to the look and style of this movie, 90% of what there is to love about this film comes from the atmosphere, tone, and impressive visual effects. For being made in the '80s, I was very pleased with just how believable and well-integrated the practical effects were. Had this movie been made 5 or even 10 years earlier, I doubt this movie would have been nearly as effective in this department. As it stands, this is a really cool looking movie that has aged very well in that regard.
Overall, apart from needing to develop some of the characters a little more and the bizarre casting of Pullman, my biggest issue with the movie comes from the ending itself. Sadly, this movie had the perfect ending, but decided we needed another 5-10 minutes that totally took away from the punch to the groin that this movie could have left us with. I had the chills when the screen went black, and anyone who has seen this movie knows exactly what I'm talking about. Sure, it would have left some things a little more open-ended, but the mystery and terror that would have been left would have easily outweighed the need for a straight forward resolution.
Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely. It isn't the best voodoo movie out there (Angel Heart still probably holds that title for me), but it fills a very specific niche of horror that I feel has gone mostly ignored. It has some shocking and creepy moments, awesome, unflashy effects, and enough new things to offer to keep it from being like anything else I've ever seen.