Five cousins (which I'm getting the impression were not truly related, but that their kin had all grown up together over the centuries) travel to an old family estate for what they are calling a family reunion - but is really more or less a trip to see the elders and hopefully find themselves rolling in dough before the weekend's demise. (Or their own. This is a horror movie, after all.)
Interestingly, the quintet are the descendants of slaves, which throws a whole new (and relatively fresh) spin on the "weekend at the creepy country house" tale. They've come to what is being called a family reunion but upon arrival none of the wealthy golden-agers are around. But they've left them a fully stocked kitchen and a case of alcohol, so the younger members of the family dig right in, adding some home-grown hootch to the mix as well. Woot!
In true horror movie form, the director - apparently fearing having an all-black cast - throws in a token white couple who are friends with one of the cuz's. Naturally, we just barely meet them before they are quickly disposed of. I cannot even remotely recall their names. Oh well, moving on...
Thinking their Caucasian friends are just overly horny, the others leave them to their roll in the hay and decide to have a frank discussion about the real reason everyone came to this "reunion" in the dead of winter. They are all, sans one goody-two-shoes-cousin - out for money. And lots of it. This realization leads to even more drinking, smoking copious amounts of wacky weed, and low and behold - ritualistic dancing in the living room in front of the fire place. Um, okay...
Needless to say, they all get trashed and start to hallucinate. Or do they? The requisite frights are here, writing in blood on windows, scary noises to investigate, shadows and visions, etc, etc.. Not exactly setting a precedent here. But the acting, truth be told, is pretty solid. I was still pretty into the film at this point.
Upon morning's arrival, two of the girls awaken to discover one of the aunts sitting in the room staring at them. As if that isn't disconcerting enough, she announces they are about to 'begin'.
And before coffee. Now that's just rude.
Likewise, in the guy's room, a goofy grizzled uncle beats a drum and shoos them from bed and tells them to get ready for the initiation. Now I don't know about you, but at my family reunions they let me sleep till noon, don't play musical instruments while I am trying to sleep off a hangover, and serve me homemade oatmeal with real peaches and some cranberry muffins. They are not gathering us in the great room to tell the woeful tales of the past.
But hey, we do have an inheritance to talk about, right? So the
Yeah, strike her from the guest list at the next family gathering.
Inevitably, once the motivations of "the elders" are truly made clear, the heart of the story, which involves making a deal with an ancient bad guy named (try not to laugh here) Chakabazz, kind of just falls apart. It morphs further into silliness when the elders head out into the woods, form a circle, and actually start chanting non-stop, "Come Chakabazz, Come!" until you want to rip every last hair out of your head.
I felt like I was watching Roots merged with The Wicker Man. While I liked the whole "deal with the devil" plot-line in which the elders apparently threw in with this Chakabazz dude to find their way out of slavery and into extreme wealth and good fortune, when they finally called up his ancientness it ended up feeling like a live-action Saturday morning cartoon. Perhaps an old episode of Scooby Doo ringing in my ears.
Damn, they were doing so well till they called the corners and dressed up like life-size corn dollies. It felt like a casting call for a new Conan movie or some Game of Thrones rejects. Seriously just hard to not laugh at.
At a place in a film where the truth is coming out and the potential victims are supposed to be running around scared out of their wits, I was actually looking at the clock, wondering just how much more I was going to have to sit through.
All in all, I liked the premise, enjoyed the acting, and thought they had the right idea - but at the end it just turned out to be the wrong execution. I doubt I'd take a second look.
Oh, and that DVD cover - no clue where that came from. Wait, maybe they cut off the white girl's head...I honestly cannot remember...