What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

I want an Ouija board now just so I can first ask it the opening lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. Justin Armstrong, Swisyzinna Moore, Carson Underwood and Eric Window star in The Ouija Experiment.

The Ouija ExperimentCast of Characters:
Michael – Justin Armstrong
Shay – Belmarie Huynh
La’Nette – Swisyzinna Moore
Brandon – Carson Underwood
Calvin – Eric Window
Joseph – David Clark
Gracie Mendoza – Leah Diaz
Lisa Mendoza – Miranda Martinez

Director – Israel Luna
Screenplay – Israel Luna
Producer – Josey Wells
Not Rated

Wanting to have some fun with his friends, Michael (Justin Armstrong) finds an Ouija board and invites them over, hoping to contact the dead. Michael lays down what are apparently the big “ground rules” for using a spirit board, one in particular being to always close the game by telling the spirit goodbye.

Shot in the dark, I know, but take a stab at which rule’s gonna get broken.

After they’re successful in contacting a spirit, they decide to go back the next day and try the board out again. However, a dispute between two in the group causes them to be distracted and – uh-oh – forget to close out the game.

SPOILER ALERTS: Really bad things ensue.

From a business side of filmmaking standpoint, you can legitimately argue that 2011’s The Ouija Experiment is a success. It was filmed for somewhere around $1,000, the marketing was done through various social media outlets and it also managed to make its way into a few theaters.

The actual film, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

Quite possibly filmed with whoever’s camera phone, amongst the entire cast and crew, contained the most memory, this film is scant on scares but full of all the character stupidity you can handle. They’ll stress the rules of operating an Ouija board ’til they’re blue in the face, but then – oh, silly them – they break them easily without hesitation.

They should’ve had Jamie Kennedy from Scream explain it all to them.

They’ll hear angry demonic growling in the same room that they’re in and experience horrifying visions, but stay planted right where they are like deer in the headlights. And, apparently, seeing a pool of blood on the living room floor of their boyfriend’s house isn’t cause for dialing 911, but for picking up the camera and acting utterly clueless as they search around the house.

Hey, I get it. Different strokes for different folks. The TV show taught me the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. But, and maybe I’m a lone voice in the wilderness here, for starters, the pool of blood means he’s dead, and I’ll run through a plate glass if it means getting away from a demonic spirit.

But, then again, that’s just me.

By now, the found-footage gimmick has worn out its welcome. There are, of course, a few exceptions, and some films have managed to work really well in spite of the fact that it’s using found-footage when it would’ve worked fine without it (Chronicle, for example). If there was ever a strong case for “Did this movie really need to be found-footage other than to simply save time and money?”, The Ouija Experiment would be it.

Maybe this film was originally meant to be shot conventionally, who knows? What I do know is that no found-footage film before or after it got me questioning more how every character could conveniently have a camera with them at all times, and even more so, keep it ever so steady as they try to locate whatever demon is in the house with them that’s currently got them traumatized out of their mind.

Of course, this film would be nothing without first reminding us that everything we see is “based on actual events”, ’cause I guess they’re just slapping that phrase on everything now.

  • Patton – Based on actual events.
  • Raging Bull – Based on actual events.
  • The Color Purple – Oprah’s in it… End of story!
  • The Killing Fields – Based on actual events.
  • Ghostbusters – Trust us… This actually happened!
  • Schindler’s List – Based on actual events!
  • The Matrix – How do you define “actual events”?
  • Freddy vs. Jason – We’re not fucking with you… This is real.
  • Paranormal Activity – Dude, Wikipedia said so!
  • The Smurfs 2 – YOU WILL SHIT YOURSELF WHEN YOU DISCOVER THIS IS AS TRUE OF A STORY AS YOU WILL EVER GET!!!!

But then it gets better ’cause once the third-act rolls around, we get a flashback sequence, in a film that’s marketed as “ACTUAL FOUND-FOOTAGE” that explains the tragedy behind the spirits summoned up through the board.

A FLASHBACK SEQUENCE IN A FILM THAT’S MARKETED AS ACTUAL FOUND-FOOTAGE.

We learn through Brandon and Michael that Gracie (the obligatory creepy child ghost summoned) was the daughter of Lisa (one of the other ghosts summoned), who was killed by some loopy Rain Man neighbor next door. Then we’re told that Lisa was the mother of Gracie, just in case we were too fucking stupid to make the connection between them in the first place. But the backstory of Gracie being the granddaughter of Lisa’s great grandma’s daughter, and Lisa being the sister of Gracie’s grandma from the other side’s son’s brother-in-law is beside the point. Was it the spirits or the dead characters that were able to piece together and squeeze in the conventionally filmed, black and white flashback into the movie?

We all know it’s bull shit anyway, but is a little narrative consistency too much to ask?

You can forgive quite a bit with a horror film if it at least delivers, but the problem here is that it doesn’t. It has nothing to do with the fact that is was made for next to nothing. You can make a very effective film for dirt cheap, provided you put a little elbow grease into making it. There’s just very little effort, if any at all, given here, and the tell-tale sign of that is having the cast improvise all their scenes (director Israel Luna would give them an outline and they’d take it from there), and boy, does it show. It’s hard to tell if they’re either struggling to come up with something to say, or if they forgot they’re filming a movie, the latter of which would speak volumes since a number of the scenes involve them speaking directly to a camera.

Made for pennies to the dollar, The Ouija Experiment is a horror film that generates more unintentional laughs and eye rolls than scares. With a non-existent script, a story outline that was probably make it up as they go, and characters so dumb you’re actually siding with the forces of evil to take them down, those said characters would’ve been better off not summoning ghosts, but instead asking Satan for a yes or no answer to questions such as, “Are we wasting are time?”, “Will this film drown our acting careers?”, or “Is The Ouija Experiment destined for Redbox obscurity?”

Wait! The pointer’s moving… Yes, yes, and yes.

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