Prepared to be scared! Isn’t that what the movie trailer for every horror or supernatural movie screams out at you? A white knuckle ride through the suspension of belief and the willing and unwilling submission to a journey of terror and a full frontal assault on every audio visual sensation available? If we anticipate being scared witless (I’m being polite here) that doesn’t mean that we’ll be actually ready when it comes – in whatever shape or form.
And what preparation do we take? Take the other half with us so that when it gets really tense – we can squeeze up and see who screams the loudest? Or spook each other up when only one of us is really scared? That way movie producers get double screams and double sales? After all, do couples go to horror movies on their own?
Not in our instance, certainly. It was very much a case of ‘I’ll go, if you go – or only if you go with me!” And so, we sat down in our seats, a trifle uneasily to Ouija – Origins of Evil and prepared to be scared.
First the supernatural plot. In 1967 Los Angeles, widowed mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) unwittingly invites authentic evil into her home by adding a new stunt to increase her séance scam business. When the merciless spirit overtakes her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson), the small family must confront unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.
The film captures the spirit of the sixties perfectly and the free and easy west coast lifestyle, in particular. This bit is very easy on the eye. So the innocence of youth, in the form of the elder daughter, on verge of womanhood, is a perfect backcloth, for the darker demons in store in the cellar.
Yes, the cellar, where else? In this case, walls don’t have ears so much as hidden skulls who in a previous bodily life had their tongues ripped out and are looking (naturally or unnaturally) for mouth to talk from. This takes the form of the angelic looking young daughter who gets possessed and ends up speaking for them.
If possession is nine tenths of the law then surely her mom ought to look for an attorney to help? But no, who better to confront these demonic forces than the local good looking Catholic priest played by Henry Thomas. Especially as in another life, the two of them could have been more than just friends. We, the audience, are on familiar ground here already, even if none of the characters appear to know what’s going on.
Overall, Ouija has the feel of a made for tv movie and not one of the big budget box office sets. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in that there’s not an over reliance on raiding the special effects budget at the expense of a bit of old fashioned dialogue and character development.
So what of the test of the old adage for writers (or screenwriters); either write something different or better? Ouija is neither sadly – sadly because it’s not meant to be melodramatic, either.
Like facing a tired boxer, we know what to expect and when to expect it. This is cinematic shadow boxing. The slights of hand, too often miss their mark so we don’t have to put our fingers to our eyes to see where the next scary punch is coming from. And although people die, there’s no real killer blow.
We may have squirmed now and again but neither of us ever made it to the edge of our seats.
Prepared to be scared? Perhaps we prepared too well.