Director: Israel Luna
Writer: Israel Luna
Producer: Tom Zembrod
Stars: Justin Armstrong, Gerald Crum, Sally Greenland, Nicole Holt, Ty Larson, Swisyzinna Moore, Shanon Snedden, Jessica Willis, Eric D. Window, Eric Zettina, Tom Zembrod
A Ouija board session unleashes a spirit that terrorizes theatergoers during a horror film festival weekend.
Of the many things niche critics of low-budget genre movies should be sensitive to, an important one is the creators’ career experience. It’s certainly no secret that filmmaking neophytes cut their teeth on horror films, “found footage” especially, because they are easier to market, cheaper to produce, and, perception-wise at least, have target audiences less stringent about perfect quality than let’s say an explosive superhero epic or period romantic drama. In other words, horror attracts filmmakers prone to errors of youthful overzealousness or even hubris, which is perfectly acceptable… to a point. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
Having seen more movies fitting the above description than can be counted, and having spent time as a crewmember on such productions, I like to believe I have an eye for spotting talent whose hearts are truly in their work despite what a final product’s polish level might be. I have no desire to damage the spirit of any young (or old) director with negative criticism. But if my nose sniffs a phoned-in cash grab from a careless hack unfit to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich much less a movie, I’m calling him/her out. Conversely, if a movie is neither well made nor entertaining, yet it nonetheless appears as though the creators’ limitations pertain more to budget and resources than to ambition, ability, or creativity, I’ll say so with encouragement. Meanwhile, expectations are dialed up that future films from the same person(s) will only improve after continued spins around the block.
“The Ouija Experiment” (review here) is one such instance where a film was granted doubt’s benefit. Reportedly made for less money than a month’s rent in Los Angeles, the movie had its fair share of issues, to be sure. Still, I recall feeling as though the fresh-faced cast put conviction into their roles and were enjoying themselves in a professional manner, which cannot be said of many “found footage” ensembles. Based on its title and poster art alone, I could only assume that “The Ouija Experiment” was a likely step up in seriousness and production value from writer/director Israel Luna’s previous feature “Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.” Presuming that this was a band of eager newcomers slowly developing their talents, I looked past the flaws and gave “The Ouija Experiment” three out of five stars based mostly on the earnest enthusiasm I saw in the production.
I also presumed that given the admirable attitudes and potential displayed, the team’s next effort would be another step up. I was wrong. Israel Luna and company’s follow-up film “The Ouija Resurrection” is so awful that part of me wants to revisit my review of “The Ouija Experiment” with a discerning eye towards seriously reevaluating every positive thing I had to say.
“The Ouija Experiment” was also released as “The Realm,” so it seems fitting to similarly burden the sequel with dual titles of “The Ouija Resurrection: Ouija Experiment 2” and “The Ouija Experiment 2: Theatre of Death.” Part two opens on an intriguing meta premise where a horror film festival screening of “The Ouija Experiment” finds attending cast members trapped in a haunted theater with a handful of patrons after another ill-fated Ouija board séance summons a ghost with an origin story similar to Hugo Simpson’s from “Treehouse of Horror.”
I say the setup is intriguing, although it is not at all believable. I attend as many revival screenings of contemporary classic horror films as I can here in Hollywood, particularly if Q&A’s or meet-and-greets with cast and crew are on the menu. These are the kinds of events where John Carpenter shows up to personally introduce “Prince of Darkness” and only half of the seats are filled. Such screenings are fun and enthusiastic, but usually remain low-key affairs that never reach capacity.
So when “The Ouija Resurrection” opens on a packed house premiere of “The Ouija Experiment” complete with bright-smiled theatergoers en masse repeating a character’s catchphrase, a snickering guffaw from the viewer at home is an appropriate response. The next scene moves the masturbatory fantasy into the lobby where DVD copies of “The Ouija Experiment” cannot be put into outstretched arms fast enough. One buxom attendee appears on the brink of fainting when actor Justin Armstrong autographs her boob, as if she just met one of The Beatles.
Alright. So the filmmakers are having fun and indulging in a little wishful thinking. No big deal. I can spin my eyes counterclockwise once and then let it go.
What I cannot let go is the piss poor technical detail making the entire film look like a first week project for a community college video production course. Actors flub lines and correct themselves without so much as a single bother for a second take. Wind blows directly into the microphone during exterior scenes. Ambient background audio changes from shot to shot during dialogue exchanges. Sound and visuals are routinely out of synch, such as when shots show clapping audience members yet absolutely no clapping is audible on the soundtrack. The movie is slapped together so sloppily that no one would be shocked at a revelation that it went from first draft to final cut in less than a day.
If you’ve read this review in its entirety, I apologize for using 850+ words thus far when the paragraph above succinctly describes everything there is to know about “The Ouija Resurrection.” In a failed attempt at instilling some sort of fright into its sleeping pill vibe, the movie miserably mimics the famous hallway shot from “The Exorcist III.” Even with a template to follow beat for beat, “The Ouija Resurrection” still blows it by using a poorly-executed cut instead of a perfectly-timed zoom and misses the effect entirely. That’s a prime example of how the film not only has little regard for careful technique, but also has no understanding of what goes into constructing effective moments of terror.
Congratulations are in order for speedily transitioning my disposition from mild curiosity about what these filmmakers would turn in for a sophomore effort to zero interest whatsoever in future releases from this team. The film’s crowning achievement is releasing just two weeks into January and already becoming the candidate to beat as worst movie of the year.
Review Score: 15