What I'm Watching: The Ouija Experiment
Get comfy folks, this is gonna be a thing.
Awhile ago, almost two years to the date, I watched a movie called The Ouija Experiment. I never got around to reviewing it, as I should, but always had it in the back of my mind. I knew there was somehow a sequel to it, and after some discussion with an associate of mine, I decided to watch that as well. But first! I figured I would rewatch the original, and finally get a review out.
But oh, it got so much worse than that, because somehow there was also two MORE movies, and because I love me some self torture, I decided I SHALL WATCH THEM ALL! Even though the latter two are unrelated sequels, and they were released in the US with different names that reflected that so there's no confusion. I decided to plough ahead anyways, because I hate myself. So if I keep on the ball, I will be posting reviews for each of theses movies over the next few days, and following in #2's footsteps (But more on that later!), it shall be a veritable Ouija Weekend.
...I don't hate myself enough to spell that Ouikend.
The basic plot of this first Experiment brings in everyone's favourite plot devices; Ouija boards, obvs, and found footage! It centers around a group of people who decide to get together, play with a Ouija board, while one of them decides to film it, much against the wishes of the guy hosting the event.
The stuff with not wanting the thing to be filmed is interesting. I like it as an IDEA, but it is just annoying in practice. It creates some character conflict which is nice, but it naturally has to be brushed aside pretty quickly or hey! Short movie, right? And it even goes so far as to have the guy who was so against it being one of the main dudes doing the filming in the latter half. It's like they wanted to use it for conflict, but then didn't think it through and just dropped it cold.
Naturally, these people summon some spirits they shouldn't and it becomes your typical race to figure things out before everyone dies. It's all very standard stuff. And hey, just remember, shout "Just show yourself!" at the Ouija board, because THAT always ends well.
The overall plot isn't BAD by any stretch, it's just kinda standard, like I said. They drag things out a LOT with too much character stuff. I like character moments to make us care about the characters, but this movies gives us too much of these people just sitting around and brushing their teeth and pointless junk I'd rather get by. Also, why are they just randomly filming themselves in the bathroom?
There really is just so so so many silly moments in this movie. They want to stop using the board, but the little girl ghost doesn't want to say goodbye, and they say "We'll play tomorrow!" to placate her, which is fine. But then they're all like, "Now we have to play with her tomorrow!" ...No! No you don't! You mostly used the board properly, mostly followed the rules, and said goodbye! The ghost shouldn't be a problem. Stop opening the door!
One of my favourite moments of silliness is the declaration that the Ouija board is 'one of the great unexplained mysteries." Yeah, no. No it's not. We actually understand very well how and why it works. Another silly moment is "How could we forget to say goodbye? It's the first rule!" ...Actually, it's the last one.
Also, the movie tried to be super hip and relevant with talking about YouTube and name dropping various YouTubers. It comes off as fake, much like a lot of the movie's setup. It never ever feels entirely of a real world.
The most hilarious thing though, has GOT to be the Experiment's attempt to do their own version of the "Paranormal Activity Sound". If you've seen those movies, you know they use a very/mostly subtle noise that lets you know Something Is Not Right. Ouija Experiment does much the same thing, but it is VERY obvious, VERY in your face, and is a grumbling rumble that just makes the damned movie sound like it has indigestion and is hungry for good writing.
BUT, to be fair, the movie actually has some good scares. The thing I love about found footage is that perspective you get of being in the moment, and having things appear to you much the same they would if you were there. One of the best is when Calvin is telling off the camera, saying there's no such thing as ghosts or whatever, and suddenly arms grab him from out of frame and he's killed.
Another great one is pushing through a doorway, looking around the room, and as they come back out of the door, there's a little girl suddenly sitting there asking to play. It's a genuinely good moment that really catches you off guard. The movie absolutely has its moments.,
Another good use of filmmaking is having the bathroom being wrong while the guy is filming it and weird things are happening, and then when they review the footage, it's normal, like he was filming the way it looked when someone else owned the house.
And it's a cheap scare to be sure, but when a Halloween decoration in the attic suddenly comes on and shouts out, "GET OUT NOW"? Yeah, no, I'm out, gone, done.
The absolute worst thing in the movie is when it very brashly breaks its own storytelling rules. As they investigate who killed who in the past and why, the movie flashes back to the original murders. Yes, a flashback in a found footage movie. That is not found footage. Not even a documentary style, 'this is a recreation of events we pieced together from what happened'. It is a straight up, standardly filmed scene that is not filmed as found footage, because it wouldn't be, awkwardly shoved in a found footage movie. I almost would be behind this movie as silly campy fun, but breaking the filming methods like that actively piss me off and throw me right out of the story.
Fortunately, once they figure out who the killer is (And even have someone say, I know who the killer is! Yeah, thanks, we all figured that out WITH THE OUT OF PLACE FLASHBACK.) the movie goes full on horror with the ghosts coming after people, with some more good scares. The whole 'mummy mouth' thing is getting really overdone, but I found it rather worked here. Instead of showing it as a goofy extending jaw, they just made it a wide maw and a void of nothingness, and not a normal mouth. I like that approach.
Also on the subject of inconsistent rules, the very final moment is a good twist of one of our stars filming around with his camera, and then he sees a mirror and he has no reflection, and he realises he's dead. I especially like that we see it as him filming a floating camera. That's a good, striking scene. The problem with this scene? There are two other ghosts there, welcoming him to the club...AND THEY HAVE REFLECTIONS! Ghosts are *repeatedly* seen in mirrors in this movie, but then not in reality. I could have let all the other ones go as being scares, but when ghosts IN THE VERY SAME SCENE are in the mirror, then it just falls apart. They could have easily done SOMEthing to have him come upon the ghosts, who we know are ghosts, then watch him pan to the mirror...OH they're not, there, because ghosts! And THEN you see he's not there too, just the camera, and GASP, he's a ghost just like them! But nope, some ghosts in the mirror in the exact same shot. WTF.
The actual plot of why this happened actually isn't half bad, even if the twists are pretty obvious., Mixed in with some good scares, it makes for an okay silly horror movie. But the characters are pretty bland, and everything feels so forced, with some very frustrating storytelling choices. It's ultimately an okay story with some okay gimmicks, but then a lot of inconsistencies and frustrating storytelling. It's average, it has its moments. I'd say it's just barely worth checking out, but I wouldn't blame you if you get done with this and want to fling the DVD across the room.