What I'm Watching: The Ouija Experiment 2: Theatre of Death.
The Ouija Experiment experiment continues with Ouija Experiment 2: Theatre of Death! And for once, that spelling isn't my quirkiness, it is legit how they spelled it in the title. Y'know, the proper way. How bad of a movie can it be if they're classin' it up like that, right?
Oh, let me tell you...
TOE 2 is arguably a sequel to the first movie. Kinda. Sorta. But not really. The conceit is, it is about three of the actors from the first movie, doing the circuit tour around theatres, promoting the movie, doing Q&As and the like, and run afoul of a Ouija board in the really real world.
So, it's not really a sequel, it doesn't take place in that world, but it is adjacent to it, and follows people involved. I gotta say, as a concept, I'm down for this. Sadly, the execution is lacking. Also, they ditch the found footage angle the second time around, which thank the maker, because at least this time they can't break their own rules again.
I mentioned yesterday how I rewatched the first movie to prep for #2, and well that was pointless! Not only is it unnecessary, but they replayed half the movie in the first few minutes, as a way to show it being shown to crowds in the theatre.
And if the first movie was low budget (As many found footage movies are, hence why they go that route), then this movie is NO budget. The filming is dank and clearly made with whatever cameras they picked up at the nearest Wal-Mart. But it also makes one of the biggest crimes in low budget cinema; poor micing of people. Because who needs to hear people talking and explaining things? I would even tolerate the occasional boom mic in a shot over this muffled across the street chattering.
The movie still manages to completely throw me out of its universe again though, but I can't really blame the movie. Not entirely. Because at one point, they drop a music cue, and it's one I personally recognise from a show from my pals at Legion Podcasts and the Hail Ming Power Hour. Now, that isn't the movie's fault, but when you use a stock sound drop, it can be jarring.
But back to the actual movie at hand...I kinda love Michael and Linette from the first movie being back as their actor selves. The metaness and them being actors is fun. I am a sucker for meta stuff like this. And it's a lot of fun that "Calvin" remains Calvin even in the real world.
Eventually, a Ouija board is found, and "Calvin" fiddles with it to impress a girl. And summons evil down upon them. Which you know what that means...this movie has indigestion too! Look, ghosts, just go get a Snickers bar. You are not yourselves when you're hungry! And what form does this evil take? Sigh, apparently the smoke monster from Lost...in all its cheap CGI glory. And most of the people it kills, it drags off into a hyperspace anomaly.
But don't worry, this movie has its share of highly contrived moments of tension too! "I just dropped my keys down the stairs! Can someone get them for me??" Why...why not get them yourself? It's a stairway? You're not locked out? I mean, if she dropped them down one of those outside stairways that are grated over to keep people out, and she was calling out to someone inside, okay fine, I can see that. But it's not. Just...walk down the stairs.
There's also a sheriff lurking around that is a bit of a jerk to some of the actors. And he's a Texan, and he don't take too kindly to them Hollywood types poking around his town. "Y'all working that...horror show tonight? Y'all better watch yourselves!" It comes so out of the blue, and is so confrontational, I can only ask, what the hell, sheriff?
"You said they're portals to other worlds!" "It's just a movie, sir..." "I KNOW IT'S FAKE!" Apparently not! Not if you're acting like that! This sheriff is massively overwrought.
And for SOME reason, this movie pulls out the 'ghost glasses' from Thirteen Ghosts, to try and give itself some visual flair. And there's something to looking through The Live glasses, and every time you go back and forth, the creature down the hall is a little closer, a little closer...but at the same time? I just want to go reread The Sun Dog.
Things stay mostly quiet though for most of the movie, as the plot gets set up, and the smoke monster lurks around the halls until things get going. But the big horror show finally comes, the theatre owner locks all the doors, and declares, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!" YOU JUST LOCKED ALL THE DOORS SO YES THEY DO!
The second act is pretty strong, with a bunch of good jumps. But then the plot crashes into a brick wall once the third act starts and the 'haunted tour' of the theatre begins. It's every bit as cheesy as you would expect from every bad haunt you've ever been too. All its missing is the bowl of spaghetti brains. I'd like to think that's by design, but it's still so goofy and bad to sit through and watch. They may WANT it to come off silly and cheap like your average homespun haunt. And it works! But!
Fortunately, as I said, once the actual ghosts wander back into the plot, it picks back up, thankfully. Which eventually prompts someone else to shout out, "Show yourself!!" I almost want that to be a running thing through the series, but it sadly did not happen...
When the movie does finally get around to revealing what's haunting the place, and what the backstory is, I actually like the twist of who knows what's going on. The movie does manage to hint a lot with some of the characters having flashes of past events. However, the flashes are so quick and edited so poorly, you can't see what's going on, so it's some wasted effort. It actually makes sense at the end of the day, but it's hard to piece together what's coming, when the movie throws hints at you too quickly while shouting in your ear and grabbing your ass.
I do genuinely like the backstory of what's going on, and the person responsible for it. And it's actually well acted, with emotion and darkness and a little scenery chewing all at once. It's a shining spot in this no budget mess.
Although the ending is a bit of a mess. A ghost got summoned with the Ouija board, it's a spirit, but it's...vulnerable to bullets and they can kill that which is already...dead? What? But whatever, it's over with.
The Ouija connective thread is tenuous at best. The board is largely unnecessary to the plot. It's more connected to the original MOVIE than the board itself.. And even that isn't really needed, although fun for the meta-ness and seeing familiar faces. But this could've been a regular haunting, with regular characters. The Ouija board is pointless, and just because the first movie and title forced it upon the proceedings.
There's a few fun moments, a few good jumps here and there, and a really good performance or two, around an okay story that I didn't really see coming at times. But that's more because I didn't know what to expect from this going in, and when it went meta, I had no idea what I was in for.
The thing that really hurts the movie is the production values. They make good use of a real theatre but...it looks like they grabbed the nearest camera and ran into the nearest available theatre. They're running around backstage, and it looks like an unfinished set, which it IS. It both works and looks cheap, because they had very little to do. Also, the cinematography is VERY dark, and grey, and dull, largely due to their choice of cameras, I suspect.
I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. Well, like/hate. There's good moments in there, and it was a little unexpected. But it's terribly silly and cheap. But I enjoyed the campiness of it. I can't say rush out to find this thing, but there's worse things you could watch to try and get a few laughs and jumps.