Starring Debra Mayer, Riley Smith, Chad Burris, Kevin Calisher, Huntley Ritter, Ben Indra, Drew Fuller, Travis Sher, Rhett Wilkins
Directed by David DeCoteau
Expectations: Hopeful, the cover is promising.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
I never quite know what I’m getting myself into with a B-Movie, but I have developed a fond familiarity with the films of David DeCoteau after seeing about 30 of them. Voodoo Academy is an unexpectedly important film in DeCoteau’s filmography, so I’m glad it ended up in the final stretch of my Full Moon review series. If I had seen this a few years ago, it would be a homoerotic curiosity, but after seeing almost all the Brotherhood films, and a number of other post-2000s DeCoteau films, the resonance of Voodoo Academy is felt all the more. To put it bluntly, Voodoo Academy is basically the film that launched DeCoteau into the “hot guys in boxer briefs” genre, and honestly it’s one of his best movies.
The Carmichael Bible College is just about as unique as a college can be. The school only accepts six students at a time — it’s in an experimental phase — and its focus isn’t simply on bible studies. The good Rev. Carmichael (Chad Burris) heads the NeuroCystic Christianity Church, a new take on Christianity that recognizes God created both man and science. A main tent of the religion asserts that only through technology can man ascend to a higher closeness with the Lord. Rev. Carmichael also believes in the Catholic practice of confession, but his confessional is equipped with an electromagnetic device. Conventional confession relieves the burden of sin from the penitent man, but Rev. Carmichael’s device allows the sins to be eradicated from the mind, as well. He seeks to heal the soul through electromagnetic means, similar to the way that Scientologists go through auditing to clear themselves of past negativity.
The film’s opening clearly lets us in on the secret that Carmichael Bible College is a much more treacherous place than its pious, stained-glass chapel would suggest. A woman helps a young man slowly disrobe, fondling him all the while. A priest looks on, unbuttoning his own shirt and caressing his bulging pecs and six-pack abs. He’s party to whatever strangeness is afoot, and he’s clearly enjoying himself. Soon the younger man is strapped to a table, and just when he starts to realize that things aren’t going to get sexual for him, the priest pours ceremonial wine over the man’s body. In true DeCoteau fashion, the sound of a heartbeat accompanies the film’s score. This scene is one of the purest and best examples of the DeCoteau charm, and we’re just one scene into the movie! Thankfully, the entire movie continues to deliver, all the way until its inevitable final confrontation.
Voodoo Academy exists in two distinct versions, though. Charles Band was not so hot on all the homoeroticism that the film contained, so after shelving it for roughly a year, he finally released it to VHS after editing out about 23 minutes. The DVD retains DeCoteau’s original edit, and while I haven’t seen the shorter version, it’s hard to imagine this film playing anywhere near as well with any part cut out of it, let alone a full-on 23 minutes. I mean, yes, 23 minutes of chest fondling and studs in bulging boxer briefs is A LOT — and I wonder what the actors felt like performing all of this — but what’s a DeCoteau movie without these things?
Voodoo Academy has an undeniable erotic flow that shouldn’t be stifled, whether or not you think all the fondling is necessary. It is perfect as it is, and DeCoteau’s passion for the material comes through the screen incredibly strong — especially in comparison to some of this other Full Moon films of this time, most notably the lackluster Totem. I haven’t looked into the specific story, but given the proximity of Voodoo Academy and DeCoteau creating Rapid Heart Pictures, I have to imagine that crafting something personally satisfying, only to see it sit unreleased and then become compromised, must have pushed DeCoteau into creating a company all his own where he would retain creative control. This was a win for both DeCoteau and his fans, so in a weird way it’s a great thing that Band did what he did. Once again, restriction and compromise benefit the artist more than simply getting his way in the first place.
For fans of David DeCoteau, Voodoo Academy is highly recommended, essential viewing. It feels in many ways like a Brotherhood-adjacent film, to the point that I want to call it Voodoo Academy: Young Christians. The key difference is that the secret society exists as an enemy of the group of youths, not composed of the youths themselves. This kind of film definitely isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy sacrilege and the male form will certainly find a lot to enjoy here.
Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie, I’ll be checking in with the first Moonbeam film, Prehysteria!, recently re-mastered and released to Blu-ray/DVD. See ya then!