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Cadaverella

7394950sf3Review by BigBadWolfBoy

Okay, I’ll admit it. I popped Cadaverella into my DVD player wanting and expecting a sluttier, gorier retelling of the classic Cinderella story. And while I definitely got what I wanted and expected, part of the fun of this 2007 tarnished gem from director Timothy Friend is that the Cinderalla parallels aren’t as blatantly obvious as you’d think. This movie is a creation unto itself, and while it drags in parts and clunks its way through some uneven acting and editing, overall it’s smarter and more interesting than a good deal of what jets out of the indie horror fire hydrant these days.

Cinder is a smart young lass (at one point reading a book called Young Nietzsche!) whose wealthy, loving pap gets hitched to a stripper with two glowering, silent, black-wigged moppets in tow. He promptly keels over on the night of his honeymoon when the sultry moves of his new wife prove to be too taxing for his greasy cheeseburger-ed heart. Alas our lass is now left in the hands of stepmom Donna until she turns twenty-one, at which point she will inherit her father’s money and high-tail it someplace a little more tropical.

This is all told in flashback. The movie starts with Cinder (well played by Megan Goddard) already lamenting her own murder, and the story she tells about how she ended up dead is what Cadaverella is all about.

An interesting aspect of the film is that some of the leads play multiple characters. I don’t know if it was done on purpose or if it was a way to save money, but it actually works in the film’s favor. In the two most prominent examples, the dual characters played by their respective actors are polar opposites of each other, which I found fascinating.

In the first case actor Ryan Seymour plays both Cinder’s sweet, wheelchair-bound friend/wants-to-be-more-than-a-friend Justin, as well as gardener/psychotic-murdering-biker-boy Cash. Seymour gets to play both the guy who wants Cinder and the guy who Cinder wants in that crazy ‘I despise him so much I must bone him’ kinda way.

And the next example is Kieran Hunter. In reality she is also Jennifer Friend, co-writer and producer. In the movie she plays both evil stepmom Donna and harmless geek co-worker Lenore. One wants nothing more than for Cinder to be somewhat less alive than she insists on being, while the other wants only to follow Cinder around, be her buddy, and play for her Leonard Cohen songs. On an old-timey tape recorder. With a homemade tent sign that says ‘I heart Leonard’ sitting on top of it. As Lenore she’s adorable, and as Donna she affects this strange half-British/half-New Yorker accent that made me smile.

I liked the way the Cinderella touches are altered or buried. The stepsisters, for example, aren’t really evil. They’re creepy in the way they whisper to each other and NEVER AGE, but they seem more like otherworldly observers than anything else.

The Fairy Godmother has also been replaced with a voodoo priest named Baron Samedi (Santiago Vasquez), who arranges favors and guards the doorway to the Underworld. Once Cinder gets introduced to her brand new home in a shallow grave by some rocks, it’s the Baron that raises her and enables her to get all vengeful and such with her bare boobs and zombie-enhanced skull-crushing power and whatnot. It’s good fun.

Cadaverella surprised me with it’s humor. It also surprised me by holding back on the gore (save for a slapstick eyelid-ripping early on) until the last fifteen minutes or so when Zombie Cinder goes on her rampage. The strange thing is that I didn’t miss it. The movie has a strong enough story with interesting characters and a smart sense of humor, that I didn’t mind the lack of flesh ripping for a good chunk of running time.

Sure it’s a low, low budget affair with plenty of meandering scenes, awkward line-readings, editing that cries out for some serious tightening, dodgy digital effects, and an ending that just sort of sputters out. But it also has a love note comprised of Def Leppard lyrics. And it’s early Def Leppard, too! How cool is that?

If you’re looking for an offbeat horror/comedy/oddity, then Cadaverella might be just what the tophat-wearing, favor-granting Guardian of the Underwold ordered.