Anyone not familiar with Cassadaga, might get confused at first, since the title of the film does not tell you anything concrete.
Cassadaga is a small community in Volusia County, Florida, and it is known for having a large number of psychics and mediums, and has consequently been named the “Psychic Capital of the World”. That’s where all the action takes place.
The film starts off with quite unpleasant scene, with a young boy, dressed as a girl, who is playing with dolls quietly in his room. The boy’s mother doesn’t appreciate such behavior of her child, and it is obvious that the boy is mentally unstable. The scene ends up rather bloody, and then we’re in the “present day”…with…
…Lily (Kelen Coleman), who is a deaf teacher, that teaches painting to kids at a local school, and also has a younger sister Michelle (Sarah Sculco) to take care of. Lily even promises Michelle to move together to Paris, as soon as she’s finished with her teachings.
However, later Michelle is killed in a horrific car accident, and Lily is left alone, broken and unsure of her future.
She later decides to move to Cassadaga, to clear her mind, and recover from the above mentioned incident. Upon arrival, Lily seems to be getting her life back on track, as she meets Mike (Kevin Alejandro), a father battling his ex-wife to keep his daughter, and Lily slowly gets attracted to him.
One day, Mike, Lily and their new friends decide to visit one of the local psychics, and Lily asks if the spirit of her sister Michelle could be contacted.
Instead, the psychic calls the spirit of some dead girl, that keeps on harassing Lily, trying to get her to solve an old murder.
Lily’s life slowly starts to fall apart, as she is unable to control her emotions, and the nightmares only add more.
At the same time, there’s a brutal serial killer known as “Gepetto”, lurking in the community, and soon Lily will have to take the matters into her own hands, trying to solve the murder…unless Gepetto gets his hands on her first…
“Cassadaga” is a feature-length debut for co-writers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley, masterfully turned into an independent film by Anthony DiBlasi.
Wood, who not only wrote the story, but also produced the film, said he was fascinated with the Cassadaga community when he was a child, and felt compelled to use the location in a movie after discovering that no films had yet to utilize the world-famous location. To say the least – it worked.
While “Cassadaga” does not really stand out, as an independent film, it has a lot to offer. The feature film had its World Premiere in 2011, as part of the Screamfest LA Film Festival.
The beautiful Kelen Coleman is a joy to watch, and she really carries the film, making viewers care for her character. Overall, the cast is quite impressive, as Kevin Alejandro, Hank Stone and legendary Louise Fletcher (who agreed to play her part because both her parents were deaf), and Rus Blackwell as Gepetto, all did a great job.
Speaking of Gepetto – the character’s name is not really mentioned in the film, as Blackwell character’s name is Christian Burton, not Gepetto.
In case you didn’t know, Gepetto is a fictional character (a woodcarver, also known as Giuseppe) in the “The Adventures of Pinocchio” novel by Carlo Collodi.
In the film though, we have an “evil Gepetto”, who is obsessed with puppets, and he builds human marionettes by severing limbs and reattaching them to the living dolls. At the premiere, the actor playing “Geppetto” was kept a complete secret until opening night.
Overall, “Cassadaga” is definitely worth a watch, as for an independent film, it has a great story, good special effects, solid acting and directing. Anthony DiBlasi did a great job.