genre: thriller, horror
Spellbinder is kind of an odd beast. It for the most part plays out like one of those average erotic thrillers made in abundance during the Eighties and Nineties. Surprisingly though it does have some genuine horror moments that make this film a worthy addition in the horror genre.
But before you jump with joy you have to contend or endure some flaws that unfortunately could hurt your viewing experience. For one Spellbinder is quite slow. It takes a little too long for real events to occur and even then it manages to take it's sweet time to get to the point. I was only able to tolerate this since I was watching this very late at night and could not put up much of a fight. Hey that rhymes. Anyway had I watched this in the evening then I am sure I would have struggled and eventually would not have bothered finishing this film. Because no real attempt is made to make the characters more interesting. I know that that they were trying to keep things as mysterious as possible but they could and should have added more red herrings to make the viewer doubt of what exactly is going on. We never get to know that much about main character Jeff Mills played by Tim Daly. All we learn is that he is a lawyer, that he is ready for real relationship and that he is a good man. Ok, in one scene it is also stated that he is a brilliant lawyer. Why not show us this? Could have been fun to see him in action and maybe that would have given us another perspective on matters later in the film. Kelly Preston's character Miranda Reed couldn't be more mysterious but did that automatically make her captivating? No. The only reason she does manage to draw you in is because of her sexual appeal. She really lays it on thick that she is hot. I have to admit there was some pleasant tension between her and Tim Daly although extremely toned down. It felt like this film was first made for television then at the last minute was decided to be released it in the theater. And that in order to spice up things they added a sex scene that was less titillating than a scene before where Miranda heals Jeff's back. Another reason why this film could be disappointing is that the few horror moments don't really go that far enough. It constantly stops at times when it's about to get interesting. But undoubtedly this is more due to a low budget than good will or incompetence. It also felt like that quite important scenes have been cut to save time. (I read a comment on IMDB.com that there are more scenes in the VHS version than the LIMITED DVD one. Not sure if that truly makes a difference but if I get a hold of that VHS version I will let you know.)
Despite these flaws I have to point out that some of these horror moments are genuinely creepy. And they certainly would have been terrifying had they gotten more attention and budget to go all out. The two twists also were nice although I do think that if you are very observant you can predict them. The ending itself is pretty daring although may come across as a little weak these days since it has lost it's shock value considerably. Overall this is one of those films best viewed very late at night since only then will it be able to give that goodness you crave.