Successful businessman Marquis T. Woods (Omari Hardwick) learns that his abusive father has died. While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, a storm causes Marquis to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone, and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic. Ms. Eloise claims she can nurse him back to health using a Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has crafted from his blood and skin. Bedridden and unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the blood moon rises.
Similarities between Paramount Players’ Mark Tonderai-directed Spell and the 1990 Rob Reiner directed Misery are certainly apparent, but once you remove the tormentor and victim archetype, the film yields some very different results. The movie is available on premium video-on-demand services and for digital purchase beginning today. If you are looking for a movie to creep you out this Halloween, Spell is indeed a fun one. Spell is also available in select theatres beginning today for those eager to get into a theatre and see it on a large screen.
Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Devine took ten minutes to discuss Spell with us a few days ago. That interview is transcribed here. The audio from the interview is also included via V13’s SoundCloud channel.
Thanks for scaring the crap out of me.
Loretta Devine: “I appreciate that. I’m so glad I did. I think that nail probably got you, right? That nail in his foot?”
Oh, that was awful. Is this the first horror movie role that you have taken on, Loretta?
“I was in the first two trilogies of Urban Legend. And I was also in Supernatural; both are a little like this movie, but not quite. But they are still talking about the magical mysteries and the mysterious power of people.”
What drew you to this character?
“I’ve never been in a movie quite like this. Spell being so different from what I usually get a chance to do. It wasn’t on my bucket list, although I have always been a fan of Kathy Bates, and because it’s about a man in an attic, it reminds you of that. But it’s nothing like that because my character Eloise is not a lonely woman. I have a husband, I have people that work for me, like Lewis and other people, and I am a practitioner and a doctor in my community. So she’s a woman with power, and I really wanted to see what that felt like. So that was one of the reasons why I took on this role.”
Did you have to do anything, in particular, to prepare for this role? Anything out of the ordinary for you?
“Well, it was an extensive script. It had a lot of monologues. A LOT of monologues. And the director Mark (Tonderai) sent us a bible of what the character was about that I had to really study. And the energy that I used was the energy of my grandmother, who Eloise reminded me of so much. Because I’m from Texas and we’d pick cotton in Richards, Texas, and there were all these stories and scary stories about, Old man Turner who used to turn the water on in the backyard and come on up into the house.
And so some of the things that were talked about in this script are things that reminded me of stories my grandmother used to scare me with when I was very young. But there are so many things I think that are not stated in Spell about this woman, like the fact that she was once a slave and she kills her slave owner for selling her daughters. There’s a whole back-story to Eloise that is never verbalized. So I studied all of that and really used that to make everything works for me that I had to do to Omari (Hardwick).”
Can you tell me how you found working with director Mark Tonderai?
“He was exceptional. He also loved to do the camera work, and I think he had a great eye for everything; where the lights were and the set. Mark even crawled around the house to get a close up of the Boogity from an underground angle. The Boogity is one of the main characters in this film because it’s the little demon devil that is the reincarnation of Marquis T. Woods, who is the lead in this movie.
I’ve never worked with a director that was so specific about things that he was trying to show, and who’d get you such a complete background of what you needed to know to make all of this become true and real. And also to educate you in a lot of ways. I didn’t know that there were black people in the Appalachian mountains. Or that there were white people in the Appalachian Mountains. And all of the poverty, and then all of the stuff about Hoodoo that I had to learn about. There were signs I had to learn to make, and it was just an educating and interesting experience, and it was all because of him, the director.”
How long did you spend on set filming your parts?
“We were in South Africa in Cape Town, that’s where we did this movie, and we were there for six weeks. We worked long hours and went into the night until we got particular parts of scenes because of the special way that Mark wanted it to look and for the action to feel. He actually built an attic into the sky with steep stairs that you had to go up. And everybody had to use those stairs, the cameraman, the crew. And so that energy all got into what the movie felt like. It was close quarters and crammed and hot. The evenings got cold. It was just a one-of-a-kind experience. And it was also scary being out of the country. We got back just in time for COVID-19.”
The film could almost take place on the stage. Most of it takes place in your house, so it could be done as a play even.
“That’s so true, yes. And I think the language of it… Kurt Wimmer who wrote it, I don’t know whether this was all from his imagination of some things that were in his conscience, but you’re right, Kurt did an incredible job of creating it, you know?”
I’d never heard the term Boogity before. Is that a real thing? Is that actually out in the world as an entity?
“Yes, it is. If you look up some of the information about Hoodoo online. You can get everything on the internet now, but these are real practices that they use by using herbs and the earth, and belief more than anything. And this is what a lot of the black people that lived in the Appalachian Mountains used for cures of any kind of diseases or things that come up because they don’t have the money for doctors.”
Is it strange for you to do a movie where you know that your character is going to torment others?
“No, I was raised in America. We celebrate the villain all the time. (laughs)”
Indeed. I’m just going to leave that out there. Before filming started, did Mark have you, Omari, and John Beasley do a read-through of your parts? Did you do a full rehearsal?
“We didn’t. We would rehearse scenes but not the entire thing at one time. But whatever the scenes were for that day, we would all work and talk about what we thought was happening before we would go up to this little room in the sky. We had an incredible crew in South Africa of people that we worked with every day, (assistant director) Isabel (Martins), and the young women that made sure everything happened, so we would usually work on things in Omari’s trailer or my trailer. Because for most of the stuff happened, a lot of it happened between him and I, and it would go from there.”
Ok, and let’s finish up with what is the most frightening film that you’ve ever seen, and why do you think it affected you?
“Oh my god. That film where the girl’s head was spinning around.”
“The Exorcist. I would say that film. And then there was another one. But The Exorcist was so scary to me because of the religious element of it. Anything to do with that. Because it was about God and the devil, in this movie, the Hoodoo has nothing to do with religion. It’s just practice and a doctoral thing. But when it’s about God, it’s just so scary. Because as a young person, you just feel like nothing can separate you from God. You don’t have to be afraid if you love God, and so that movie was very scary. I even put the name of it out of my head because it was so scary. (laughs)”