Diane Bell’s indie thriller Shiva & May has found its leading ladies, according to the Wrap. Zosia Mamet and Jessica Biel will star in the film — the latter as a yoga instructor who finds herself behaving in ways she never imagined in order to protect her newly discovered sister, a sex worker with an unsavory boyfriend. The most unsettling news, however, may be that Harry Hamlin has agreed to a “kinky cameo.” Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling are producing the movie through their Super Crispy banner, which also had a hand in James Ponsoldt’s Smashed and Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy. Shooting is underway in Los Angeles; expect a 2014 top-tier festival premiere.
Once again proving that being original isn’t necessarily synonymous with being good, Cassadaga flirts with conventions of both paranormal horror films and more traditional serial killer thrillers. The independent production, a debut at Screamfest two years ago, aims to be a more character-rooted chiller, but it mainly ends up just being a boring slog.
Ostensibly named for a real-life small Florida community of mediums and spiritualists, Cassadaga centers around Lily Morel (Kelen Coleman), a post-lingually deaf artist and teacher who, following the untimely death of her beloved younger sister, is trying to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. When she meets Mike (Kevin Alejandro) the handsome father of one of her students, Haley (Rachel DuRose), things seem to be looking up. After Lily participates in a séance and ends up making contact with the vengeful ghost of a woman murdered long ago, however, things take a turn for the worse, leading to a killer who likes to turn his victims into human marionette dolls.
Writer-producers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley succeed in keeping some of the more tawdry, base-level instincts of genre filmmaking at bay, and for a while that makes Cassadaga seem classy and intriguing. But despite its potentially intriguing backdrop, their script also seems desultory, marked by listless characters and indistinct dialogue. From the moment welcoming landlady Claire (Louise Fletcher) says to Lily, “That’s my grandson Thomas — he keeps to himself on the first floor…”, Cassadaga springs a slow leak. The rest of the movie is one big, long deflating, marked by a few moments of menacing violence.
With his mannered, non-exploitative take on the material, director Anthony DiBlasi succeeds in delivering a film that stands in distinct opposition to the clamorous, boo-scares editing of a lot of horror product. And yet despite this, Cassadaga still somehow manages to build to a scene of Lily running through the woods in a negligee, plus… sigh… a car chase.
Coleman is an attractive and sympathetic enough presence, but can’t hold viewers’ attention through long fallow patches. There’s simply not enough meat on this film’s bones, narratively speaking, to merit broader, general audience interest. Opening this week in top regional markets, including in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall, Cassadaga is also available across VOD platforms. (Arch Distribution, R, 111 minutes)
Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, had no problem reaching dizzying heights over the weekend. The breathtaking and meditative space drama easily locked down the top spot at the box office, pulling in $55.79 million in its debut frame — a new record for an October bow. Amongst fellow new openers Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, slotted third, with just $7.7 million, while Pulling Strings, with a robust $6,275-per-screen average, placed ninth, with $2.47 million.
Animated family film sequel Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 slipped to second place overall, ringing up another $20.95 million and putting its 10-day domestic total just north of $60 million. Rounding out the otherwise tightly clustered top 10 were: Prisoners, with $5.75 million; director Ron Howard’s Rush, with $4.48 million; Don Jon, with $4.16 million; Baggage Claim, with $4.08 million; Insidious: Chapter 2, with $3.9 million; and Enough Said, with $2.19 million. In its ninth week of release, meanwhile, We’re the Millers pushed ever closer to a quarter-billion-dollar worldwide gross, presumably at least in part on the strength of Jennifer Aniston‘s striptease sequence.