Posts Tagged ‘Ouija’

Whenever Blumhouse is involved in a movie, I usually get interested, as they tend to produce high-quality horror films. When I heard about this film, I got interested both because it had an interesting concept behind it, and because I like Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf fan for life!). So even though it got negative early reviews, I decided to check it out anyway, and convinced a friend of mine to see it with me.

I have a lot to say about this film. Let me try to keep this brief.

Truth or Dare follows a group of college students who go to Mexico for their final spring break. While there, they meet a mysterious man who invites them up to an old Spanish mission for drinks and some good, ol’ fashioned truth or dare. However, when they leave Mexico, they find the game has followed them, and it’s now much nastier: you either play the game, no matter what horrific secrets you might have to share, or what terrible deeds you must commit, or you will die. And the game won’t end till all the players are dead.

Now on the surface, I should have liked this movie. In addition to an interesting concept, the film is incredibly well-written. The story isn’t only compelling, but surprisingly, without plot holes. With very simple tricks, they plug up most of the plot holes that would come up in a horror film, let alone one surrounding a game mainly played by children and horny teenagers. Not only that, but the way the film has these characters expose their deepest secrets is so good at making you feel sympathetic, you almost feel their pain. And when they have to undertake some of the dares, you actually get a little afraid for them.

Not only that, but most of these characters are well-written and multidimensional. Most characters in horror films are ridiculously flat, and especially in ones based around games (*cough* Ouija *cough*). But Truth or Dare actually makes these characters more than flat or stereotypes. They have trouble, they have hidden depths, which is only made more clear when characters are forced to reveal dark secrets. This is especially true with the character of Markie, who at first glance is a happy-go-lucky strawberry-blonde, but in actuality is struggling in a number of ways.

It’s helped by the fact that the actors in these films are all really good. I can’t say any one of them gave a bad performance.

But the film has one big issue: its atmosphere. In horror, atmosphere is essential. And this film  doesn’t really have one, at least not one that lasts. Several times, the film does create some tense moments (keep an eye out for the roof scene), and there are a number of great jump scares. But after the tense moment or the jump scare, I found myself winding back down to normal. And in a horror film, you should be kept at a slight tension at every moment. There should be something in the back of your mind that says, “Oh my God, I’m scared, my heart rate is going to increase a little.” And I never felt that way during this film.

And that really brings down the film as a whole.

Still, if it weren’t for that problem, this film would be terrifying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Truth or Dare a 3.5 out of 5. Despite its lack of atmosphere, I honestly recommend seeing it. It probably won’t leave you scared stiff, but it’ll keep your interest and won’t leave you angry at the actors or the directors like other films I could name (*cough* The Friday the 13th remake is a piece of trash, and I would love to chase Michael Bay around Camp Crystal Lake for that ass-terrible excuse of a film. *cough*). Give it a watch, if you feel so inclined, and decide for yourself.

Go on. I dare you.

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Whenever you hear a movie getting a ton of hype, especially a horror movie, you tend to be a bit skeptical. And when you hear that Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company for horror movies, is involved, you’re even more skeptical. I mean, have you seen Ouija? Or that crappy, way-too-sexual middle finger to a franchise that was the Friday the 13th reboot (I’m sorry, but I’ll never forgive Michael Bay for that film. Did not understand what made Jason Voorhees or the Friday the 13th films great at all).

I’m glad to report that this film was not only very good, but actually scared me a bit. And I credit that to how much its director, John Krasinski, who also starred in the film with his real-life wife Emily Blunt and co-wrote the script (rather than a certain director who thinks explosions, boobs, and unsteady camera movements make good cinema).

A Quiet Place follows a family–a father (Krasinski), a mother (Blunt), their deaf daughter (actually deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), and hearing son (Noah Jupe)–living in the first years of a post-apocalyptic world where a predatory race of creatures that hunt through sound have exterminated most of the human race. The family tries to survive each day without making a sound, speaking only with sign language and going to extreme lengths to muffle or suppress every noise (which makes you very aware of how much noise we make in our everyday lives). Which is getting more and more complicated because the mother is heavily pregnant (you can understand why that might be an issue). The film chronicles one particularly nasty night, when the mother goes into labor, and what happens afterwards.

This film is a great horror film. For one thing, the emphasis on sound in this film, both in terms of the lack of ordinary sounds like speech, electronics, and whatnot, the sounds we do hear, from nature to the monsters’ roars and growls, to the music, help to create this creepy, unearthly atmosphere. This helps in suspenseful moments, where characters have to be very careful not to make a sound or they’ll get killed, as it heightens the terror you feel. Hell, I was afraid to make a sound during those moments, and I was in the audience! Coupled with a some well-timed jump scares, you get a really scary film.

I also really liked the monsters in this film. Even in broad daylight, the monsters aren’t very easy to make out through most of the film, keeping them mysterious and making their deadliness all the scarier. And when we finally do see them, they are still really terrifying to look at, even if they may look like the monsters from a certain popular science-fiction/horror franchise (those who’ve seen the movie know what I’m talking about). And I love how not much about the monsters is revealed in the film. You learn enough to understand how they hunt and why they’ve been so successful in hunting down humanity, but you never really learn where they came from or how they appeared on Earth. And that, like the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise before Prometheus, just makes them all the scarier.

But the best part of this film are the relationships between the family members. With little to no spoken dialogue, you really get to see how this life has been wearing on them, how little mistakes and arguments, along with the constant need for survival, have given each character their own struggles and fears, and how all that creates tensions between them. Seeing them work together, fight, and try to overcome this life is not only enthralling, but contains a great metaphor for the struggles of a family–any family–during difficult times.

That all being said, the lack of sound and action at times does make it hard to stay invested or pay attention to the story. I also thought that the ending could’ve been darker, which would’ve made it a much more memorable and powerful film. At least in my mind.

All in all, I’m giving A Quiet Place a 4.3 out of 5. This is a scary film that will draw you in not just with its premise and atmosphere, but with its intelligence and depth. Take a look and see why silence is truly golden.

Veronica dropped onto Netflix back at the tail end of February. A Spanish film directed by Paco Plaza, best known for the critically acclaimed REC films, it quickly gained a reputation as “the scariest film on Netflix.” I try not to pay attention to that sort of hype, but any film that was getting that sort of recognition is likely going to make it onto my watchlist. Last night I watched it, and I would’ve reviewed it right then and there, but it was late, so I went to bed. And then today I had a busy morning and early afternoon. So I hope you don’t mind that I’m getting this post out so late.

Based on actual events,* the film follows Veronica, a Spanish schoolgirl living in Madrid in 1991. Since her father’s untimely passing, her mother has been working long hours at a restaurant/bar, leaving Veronica to care for her younger siblings. One day, Veronica and a couple of classmates bring out a Ouija board so that Veronica can contact her father’s spirit. Instead she contacts a dark entity that seems intent on not only haunting/killing Veronica, but her younger siblings as well.

While I won’t say this is the scariest film on Netflix (Lord knows I haven’t seen enough of their selection to say that), it is a damn good scary movie.

While the film is filled with the normal tropes of many possession movies–things moving on their own, scary invisible or shadowy entities, people acting totally creepy uner the influence of the evil spirit–they’re done so well that you forget that you’ve seen these tropes before. The actors all do a very decent job, especially newcomer Sandra Escacena as Veronica, who really makes you believe she’s this character and sympathize with her troubles. I also seriously loved Sister Death, a blind, elderly nun who helps Veronica realize what she has to do to fight the spirit after her (because of course there’s going to be a nun who gives advice). For an old blind woman, she’s a bit of a badass, and was never dull when she was on screen.

But on top of that, the film doesn’t go overboard with the fact that it’s a period film. Most properties taking place in popular recent decades do everything in their power to remind you that they take place in that decade. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing and is sometimes part of the charm (see Stranger Things or Ready Player One), it’s kind of refreshing to see a film that’s more focused on its story than on its culturally-popular decade.

There are a couple of things that take away from the film. For one thing, there are trippier moments in the film, like a scene where Veronica is running across the print of a page from an occult magazine on the way to her mother’s restaurant, that feel rather unnecessary and add nothing to the film. On top of that, for being the titular character, Veronica isn’t the most developed character. Yeah, she’s a responsible teenager taking care of her younger siblings and misses her father, but those are just character tropes. They don’t make Veronica herself memorable like Carrie on prom night was memorable, or how Annabelle the doll is memorable without being anything more than a creepy, possessed doll. In the end, I’m going to remember the film more than I remember the actual character the film is named after.

And as I said, this film is filled with a lot of familiar tropes. And while I’m fine with that, I know there are a lot of other horror fans who won’t care for that, no matter how well done they are.

But all in all, Veronica is a definitely a new gem in the horror film genre. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this film a 4.5. Head to Netflix, turn it on, and get ready for an experience you won’t be able to look away from.

*No seriously, something did happen. Apparently in 1992 a bunch of Spanish schoolgirls did use a Ouija board, only to have the ceremony interrupted. One of the girls later died because of a mysterious illness, which some have suggested might’ve been due to demonic possession. So while we’re not exactly sure what happened, there’s enough there that this film has more of a claim to the “based on actual events” tagline than Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever did.

If you read my review of the first Ouija film, you’ll remember that I didn’t have a very high opinion of it. It was by the numbers, unimaginative, and most of the fun came from surprise cameos, which was sad given that most films from Blumhouse Productions are generally very good. I blamed the fact that Michael Bay’s production company was involved, and that guy tends to destroy anything related to toys and/or things people grew up with in the 1980’s (seriously, is that a thing?). I also mentioned in that review that I was not looking forward to the sequel they were already making, which I felt would probably be worse.

Surprise surprise, when the trailer for the sequel turned out to be a trailer for the prequel. And it looked good! Really good!

So good, that I wanted to see it in theaters (didn’t happen, unfortunately). When the library ordered it though, I immediately reserve the DVD. And over dinner I watched it. And I have to say, it was actually better than the original.

Note: I will be discussing the original film in this review, so if you haven’t seen the first movie and might still want to see it, you might want to stop reading this review.

So Origin of Evil takes place in the 1960s, and follows the little girl who we meet as a ghost in the first film, and her family. Her mother is a false psychic who genuinely believes she’s helping people, and has her daughters help her with her scam. One day, the mother buys a Ouija board in order to spice up her act, and proceed to test it out in her home. This leads to the younger daughter getting possessed, and from there things get strange.

As I said above, this was a much better film than the original. For one thing, it’s a period film, and Blumhouse is generally very good with those kinds of films (watch The Conjuring and Annabelle films if you don’t believe me). The sets look gorgeous, and the attention to detail is amazing. Even if at times the historical setting feels like window dressing, it’s a very good window dressing. I also thought the actors did an adequate job. These aren’t the same actors that played the ghosts in the first film, but since in the first film it was just important that they look scary when the CGI was used on them, it doesn’t really matter. And as I said, they did a very good job. Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger daughter, is exceptionally good at playing both an innocent child and a terrifying possessed creature (especially when they add CGI).

And of course, the prequel explains very well how the events of the past lead to the events of the first film. If they didn’t do that, I would have said they’d wasted money and film making a movie.

That being said, there are several things that could’ve been done better. Origin has the same issue as the first film where they have good jump scares but suffer when it comes to creating an atmosphere. The filmmakers also tried to evoke that old, 1960s feel by adding little touches to the film to make it seem like it was made in the 60s: little black circles and vertical lines appear at random during the film, and some of the cuts to new scenes have that jumpy quality reminiscent of old films. However, they do it so inconsistently that it’s more distracting than anything else. If maybe they had filmed it so that it looked from the 60s, and had that characteristic hiss in the background, then it probably would’ve worked better.

I also thought there were a couple of things that didn’t make sense. In one scene, the priest character gets possessed or influenced by the little girl, and then a minute later the possession or influence leaves him. Just like that. They don’t explain why that happens, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. And remember how in the first film, the surviving sister is in an insane asylum? And how the events of her childhood did drive her insane? Well in the prequel, they don’t really show how she gets that way. I think it’s supposed to hint that just everything she went through drove her mad, but she didn’t seem any different than any other heroine in these kinds of horror movies. Scared? Yes. Grief stricken? Yes. Insane? Not so much, but they plop her right into the mental asylum and show her as seriously messed up by the events of the film.

Filmmakers, I shouldn’t have to mention this, but this is a visual medium. And in a genre where there are a lot of people going through terrible things, you have to show them losing their grip on reality. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. If someone on the street sees me walking down the other side of the street and I pass behind a lamp pole and when I’m on the other side, I have horns, giant bat wings and a tail, even if they know who I am and I’m a freaking vehicle of terror, they’re going to have questions. It’s like that.

All in all, though, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a much better film than its predecessor. And while I don’t think we’ll be getting another film in the series (despite having a slightly higher budget, the prequel did not make as much at the box office as the original), it’s a good film to go out on. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Origin of Evil a solid 3.0.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have another post out before the weekend is over, so keep an eye out for it if you want to know how I’m doing with Full Circle. Until then, have pleasant nightmares.

I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but the one near my place wasn’t playing it (or it might have but forgot to post it on their website. Believe me, they did that once). So when I got it recently, I was hoping it would break the string of  bad horror films I’ve seen lately. Sadly, Ouija has only become the latest dud on my list. Even the great horror producer Jason Blum couldn’t make this project terrifying. I blame the fact that Michael Bay also produced this film, and most of what he touches blows up in his face, even if it does make tons of money.

Ouija is about a group of teenagers who try to contact their friend after she kills herself using the titular board game. This causes them to get marked by an angry spirit that seems intent on killing them. From there, it’s a race against the clock to stop the spirit before it gets strong enough to kill them all.

This movie’s good on jump scares, but it fails to keep up an atmosphere of suspense and dread, making the movie a long drag towards the end without even gore or sex to try to make up for it all. The acting is passable, though most of the “teens” in this movie look college age or older. Two of the characters are sisters and that’s supposed to mirror the ghost’s relationship with a living relative, but they don’t go into it enough to actually make the connection more than scant at best.

Still, Lin Shaye from the Insidious films and Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf both have minor roles in this film, so that livens up the film slightly. Slightly.

I’m going to give Ouija a 1.3 out of 5. If you want to see a horror film and tell your friends that even though you’re a scaredy-cat you weren’t scared, this is the perfect film to be the foundation of that lie. I doubt it’ll ruin Ouija boards for enthusiasts of the game, which is something considering Michael Bay’s track record and possibly the one true positive thing to say about this film.

Still, I can’t say it’ll bring anyone joy to know that there’s a sequel in the works. Not surprising, considering that it made nearly a hundred million dollars at the box office and was made on only five million. Let’s hope the sequel will be several years off and direct-to-DVD, right? And in the meantime, I hope a good horror film comes out soon. I could use one!