"Cross of Voodoo" Plot Summary:
Haiti, late 18th century. A witch doctor uses the Cross of Utu to turn a zombie back into a human being. Trinity, this November: Sydney frets because two of her students, Matt and Kelly, have gone missing in New Orleans. She takes Nigel to find them, visiting a fellow professor named Richarde who explains that they interviewed him about the Catholic and African traditions followed in Haiti. He says he thought they had left New Orleans. Visiting their hotel, Sydney and Nigel find no sign of Matt and Kelly, but they do find lots of voodoo symbols, plus a video the couple left in their camera.
Sydney and Nigel learn that Matt and Kelly believed they had found a clue to tracking down the long-lost Cross of Utu. Little did they know that a man named Devereaux already had the Cross. Devereaux has put the graduate students under a spell to make them act like zombies, and sends a crony to steal Sydney's hairbrush so he can torture her. From Matt and Kelly's notes, Sydney concludes that she and Nigel must visit the same small Louisiana town where her students had tracked the artifact. There, a witch doctor tells them that if she seeks the Cross, she must come to the woods an hour after sundown.
In the dark, the zombified Kelly and Matt attack Sydney and Nigel, but explosions set off by the witch doctor make them flee. The holy man says that only the Cross, stolen from Haiti by Devereaux's ancestors, can save the students. He has a wooden panel with symbols offering half of a map to find the relic. Matt and Kelly had discovered the other half, but were abducted before they could show it to him. Sydney calls Claudia and learns that the pair included a rubbing in a package they sent to the university; the assistant e-mails Nigel a scan of the carving. Using pentagram symbols, the three find the hidden entrance to the underground vault where the Cross is hidden.
Kelly and Matt attack Sydney and Nigel, but the two use the Cross to cure them of their spell. But Professor Richarde, a secret member of the cult of Utu, assaults the witch doctor and sends Devereaux to find the anthropologists. When Devereaux nearly kills Sydney, Nigel stabs him in the chest with the pointed base of the cross. Back at their hotel, Richarde tries to steal the cross, but Sydney has realized the professor is a killer, and knocks him out. Once they see the Cross blessed with a spell of protection, Matt and Kelly return to Trinity to tell Sydney that they have eloped. Meanwhile Claudia is using voodoo spells to make the package courier fall in love with her.
Like The Serpent and the Rainbow, a serious academic study of voodoo turned into a terrible movie about zombification, no one could learn a thing about Haitian history or culture from "Cross of Voodoo." But cultural insensitivity aside, it's a reasonably entertaining episode. Claudia -- who has a crush on a cute package courier -- resorts to cutting off a lock of his hair and trying voodoo (successfully) while Sydney -- who successfully fights off an attacker -- fails to protect her hairbrush and becomes a victim of the very same kind of spell. At least voodoo tradition isn't ridiculed, even if it's impossible to take Nigel seriously as an anthropologist when he makes jokes to the witch doctor about how no one gets a degree in tribal medicine from Harvard.
The symbol of the pentagram appears all over the episode -- upside down in traditional Satanic position in Matt and Kelly's hotel room, marking the hiding place of the Cross, so that Sydney must finally use it to unlock the missing key to the map. I don't know much about black magic, but I thought the pentagram was an occult symbol from Europe, not a part of Creole folklore. It seems the episode writers played fast and loose with several different Caribbean cultures. I've also never heard of witch doctors suggesting that people dye their hair blonde by the new moon, which is what Nigel does -- anyway, it makes an amusing ongoing thread as the man keeps saying, "Not brown" every time he looks at the boy. Maybe that's revenge for the Harvard crack.
Demonic Devereaux is involved in protecting the Cross out of family tradition, but we never really learn what Richarde's role is, other than to wear spider tattoos, keep abreast of voodoo studies that might track the Cross, and assault witch doctors. The story has a number of holes, but it moves with energy and wit. Plus, for once we get to see Sydney humbled by a natural power she can't control.
Relic Hunter Reviews