The Hocus Pocus Society gathers every year on the night of the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death, and the atmosphere is as surreal as it gets. The gathering of idiosyncratic characters includes a rabbit turned into an assistant, a master magician who is a bit hard of hearing, and a young woman who saws people in half, which has led to her having two half-sisters. Things get even more mysterious when the participants to the annual ceremony start dying one by one, out of the blue.
The short experimental film excels primarily in two areas: its complete unpredictability, and its simple but effective humor. Even though it feels like it’s comprised of mini-sketches which are no more than short joke setups, there is a common element of playful madness which glues everything together – not in a classic storytelling sort of way, but more as an otherworldly experience kind of manner. Secondly, the comic relief is expertly timed and serves its purpose fantastically well. The puns and innuendos at play here are as silly as they are strangely welcome in a gathering which calls itself the Hocus Pocus Society.
The visual style is a soothing black and white, which captures the strangeness of the environment rather well, and adds to the atmospheric build-up, channeling situations and sound effects straight from another era of filmmaking. And while paying tribute to the past, 'Abra Cadaver' equally stays current and fresh with a modern exposition style, and a few moments almost extracted from the best internet memes. At times, it perhaps tries a little bit too hard to be different in its presentation, employing an extremely wobbly and shaky cam to no apparent purpose, other than simply bringing along something unexpected. However, it can certainly be forgiven for its boldness and praised for its long list of successes.
All things considered, 'Abra Cadaver' is a thoroughly engrossing and extremely entertaining experience, one which doesn’t take itself too seriously and by doing that, put a wide smile on our faces. Despite its lack of a story and incoherent structure, it’s not before long that such elements stop being a necessity, under the context, and we’re left to embrace the crazy, unpredictable happenings of a final night that celebrates Harry Houdini.