It should be clear by now to those who pay attention to independent horror cinema that Anthony DiBlasi likes to jump across different sub-genres. As the director of Dread and a producer on The Midnight Meat Train, the guy has helped to bring two very solid Clive Barker adaptations to life, and while Mr. DiBlasi's upcoming thriller Missionary is a decent but conventional romantic thriller, his new-to-DVD horror mash-up Cassadaga is certainly colorful enough to warrant some exploration.
Sort of an old-fashioned mystery premise with a nastily effective slasher flick subplot and a plot construction that feels like it fell directly out of a 1987 giallo film, Cassadaga is about a young deaf woman who travels to an isolated art college after losing her little sister in a freak accident. Despite the kindness of her sweet and pot-lovin' landlady Claire (Louise Fletcher), poor Lily (Kelen Coleman) is, of course, pretty miserable most of the time -- and things don't get much better after she visits a local psychic and goes home with freaky voices ringing through her head.
Then we switch over to a legitimately freaky subplot about a lunatic who kidnaps women, removes their limbs, reattaches them, and strings them up like giant mannequins. Sure, some of it feels like more of the Saw/Hostel leftovers, but to their credit, DiBlasi and co-writer Bruce Wood keep the simplistic stuff brief, and even though Cassadaga is perhaps ten minutes longer than it needs to be, they do a fine job of tying together the giallo-style plot (lonely "handicapped" woman alone in a new school?), the meat of a simple mystery (who is the crazy killer anyway?), and the spirit of a gore-strewn shocker, if only to keep the viewer on their toes.
If Cassadaga has one notable flaw (aside from the frankly terrible title) it's that it dallies a bit too much in the early sections of character development. Ms. Coleman's performance is actually quite excellent, but a lot of the film's calmer moments feel a bit simplistic and even repetitive -- but beyond that, the film represents a very cool and quietly appealing "sampler platter" of disparate horror-style sub-genres. A few dry spots in the first half shouldn't prevent most horror fans from appreciating the various influences that show up in Cassadaga, plus it's always nice to see a hard-edged horror film in which an allegedly weak woman kicks some serious ass.