Nick Smithers, Marysia Kay, Ross Maxwell, Georgia Goodrick
Horror fans are the most dedicated bunch of film fans on the planet. They will happily plough their way through the ?5 low budget horror movie selection in their local ASDA, trying to find a gem. There’s a lot of horror out there and, more than any other genre, the vast majority of it is flat out terrible. In this digital film age you can make something for 5p, throw some ketchup on a couple of people, create an eye catching title and DVD cover, and watch the cash flow in. This is nice for the producers, but somewhat disappointing for audiences.
However the horror fan will continue in their quest for that entertaining 90 minutes. Why do they do this? Partly because many of the great horror movies have come from a low budget background. From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to Halloween and the more recent Blair Witch Project, low budget does not always mean bad. But for every one of these great films there are thousands of stinkers. These films tend to have far less gore, horror and scares that the covers claim. They will often have a lack of understanding of the basic elements needed to make a successful genre film. And most annoyingly, they will insist on long scenes of characters talking about things which we couldn’t care less about.
I would like to report that Ouija Board falls into the small group of successful horror films, but sadly it doesn’t. The basic plotline is as follows: five young friends are heading for a weekend away in the Scottish countryside when they seem to hit a girl on the road. From there a series of events occur involving spirits and possession and the (very occasional) splashing of blood.
As you will have perhaps gleaned, this is not an original film. But that shouldn’t matter. What happens on the ghost train isn’t as important as who is in charge of the ride. The horror genre is the one place where people watch and appreciate craftsmanship - be it the kills, the direction, or the performances of the actors. Plot and originality are not high on the audience’s list. But even here the film falters. You want the film to get the basics right. Get the friends together, play a game on the board and then see them get picked off one by one, but we don’t get that here. The pacing is all off and nothing approaching exciting happens until the final minutes, when everything comes to a sudden, and disappointing, head.
Director/writer Matt Stone has said in interviews that he has studied low budget chillers to see where they failed. The single most important thing about a horror film is the pacing - it should build to a climax that people pay attention to. Usually the first third of a film is used to create atmosphere, but in this film we start with people in a car talking about nothing in particular. This can cripple a horror film. I do not suggest that you need a kill or a scare, but you do have to build up a sense of apprehension. Texas Chainsaw Massacre drew up the blueprint for low budget horror - watch how it starts on a slow burn and just piles on tension until the terror of Leatherface is revealed.
Low budget does not have to mean a lack of effort. The cover of the DVD suggests you are in for a gore fest. Sadly there is little blood and the kills are all done off camera, obviously as a cost saving measure. This could have been forgivable, if it had been done with any subtly. Showing a weapon swinging down, cutting away for a second and then cutting back shows a real lack of craftsmanship.
The actors, due to having some really awful scenes of dialogue, can’t really rise to the occasion and frankly look bored at times. Another lesson in writing in the horror genre is that no one likes to be sat down every ten minutes and have the plot explained to them. The best horror films have a forward momentum. Each crisis in the film should reveal a little more about the characters though their actions rather than having specific scenes laying out their motivations, hopes and dreams. No one cares about that. Please just scare us!
The music, which is the most interesting part of the film, overwhelms everything. There is even an attempt to use the music to elicit a scare. As a separate entity it is fine, but the way it is threaded into the film really makes it grating rather than frightening.
I was impressed by the quality of the film. It looks great for a low budget flick and should give inspiration for filmmakers wanting to do something daring and interesting on a shoe string. Sadly Ouiji Board delivers neither of these things. The fundamental problem with this film lies with the script. It is clunky and dull. Matt Stone apparently spent four years developing this film. You would have hoped that he would have put the script in front of someone who knew what they were talking about, before embarking on self financing this venture.
With Halloween fast approaching people will be looking for a scary film. Sadly this is not a scary film.
For more information on Ouija Board please visit the official website - click