Cassadaga starts with that old tale of a kid lopping off his penis with a pair of scissors due to the fact that his mother has issues with him dressing up in women’s clothing. From here we enter into a story that has so many different directional plot points, that following it becomes a task. It is a shame, too, because many of the ideas presented could have made a phenomenal film, yet throwing them all into one pot makes for a jumbled piece of storytelling.
Lily (Kelen Coleman) is a post lingual deaf woman – which is to say she lost her hearing after she learned to speak – so her speech is perfectly normal. The fact Lily she can’t hear is hard to detect in the story – due to the fact that most deaf people presented in film have either a different phonetic matter of speaking or they have a tell tale sign of always using sign language, etc. Lily’s deafness is not fully shown until well into the movie when she actually tells another character that she is deaf. There are a few clues along the way, and it could have actually been explained prior to this, though I was unable to pick up on it. Being deaf doesn’t really come into play in the movie at all. Yes, Lily and her friends go to a psychic to contact Lily’s sister that has passed away – and yes, Lily “hears” the ghost of a murdered woman call out to her – but the fact that Lily can’t hear really doesn’t matter. There is never a revolutionary turn of events as result of it. Also, Lily is an artist that teaches painting to children in some sort of therapeutic manner so they can empower themselves. After being haunted by the murdered woman, Lily begins painting clues as to where her body is. All of this painting still has no pay off in the movie and is another ill fitting piece of the puzzle.
When Lily moves to Cassadaga, she immediately meets a young lady in her class whose father, Mike (Kevin Alejandro aka Lafayette’s boyfriend from “True Blood”), is divorced. Obviously Lily and Mike hook up, and the connection to the daughter – whom she originally thinks is her little sister who is killed at the beginning of the movie – is lost. While Mike tries to help Lily with her haunting, we fall into another aimless plot point as this love story doesn’t really go anywhere. Mike even shows up at Lily’s house towards the end of the movie and states that his ex wife has filed an emergency order to keep their daughter away from Mike because of Lily’s being haunted by the dead woman isn’t real but a form of schizophrenia. That would actually be more entertaining than what is presented.
Remember penis boy from the opening sequence? Well, of course he’s the killer. You are kept guessing as to who he really is. Could he be the weird son of the lady Lily is staying with? That guy is always looking at porn on the internet and diddling himself with the door open. Probably the most underused part of the storyline, that is the most interesting, is that killer guy. “Geppetto”, according to the description of the film, is playing with a marionette at the beginning of the film and actually turns his victims into marionettes by sawing apart bones and fixing them together with metal sockets. Why? We are not given explanation, and chance encounters with the killer are brief as he is usually screaming at his victims or lying on the ground crying. I simply didn’t understand it and the visuals of these human puppets could have been so much more powerful.
Cassadaga has multiple points of potential, however, we end up with a story that is like a puppet with multiple puppeteers that simply cannot work in sync with each other.