Monday, March 30, 2015

Board Now

Guys, I am totally a grownup.

This fact dawned on me recently as I sifted through my Instant Watch queue and thought, "Maybe it's finally time that I give Poultrygeist a try." Troma's low budget telling of zombie chickens had been on my radar for what felt like an eternity (back when I was in my TWENTIES, no less) but I had just never reached the point of actually watching it. 

So I did.

But I didn't.

See, I generally know what I'm getting with a Troma movie. There will be boobs. There will be crass comments (often about boobs). Silly but often sweet practical effects. And probably more boobs.

As any horror fan with a video store membership in the '80s knows, Troma is what it is, and Lloyd Kaufman wouldn't have it any other way. But as I began my journey into Poultrygeist, I found it hard to enjoy the charm. "You're the best dry humper in school!" comes the first line, which is fine and almost sweet in its own way. But as soon as a character (named Arby, and his girlfriend is Wendy, because CLEVER) responded with, "My dad's a retard," I said to myself, 

It's not that I'm above Troma dialogue. I'm angry at myself for not seeing The Boy Next Door in the theater, for goodness sake. It's just that I took a moment to realize that at this point in my 33 years on this planet, I have grown past certain things, certain things that might have been so charming (and far less offensive) in my youth.

An adult. That's what I felt like.

Naturally, I celebrated my newfound maturity by turning off Poultrygeist and queuing up what I assumed to be an Asylum cash-in on Ouija, The Ouija Experiment.

Quick Plot: Brandon is an obnoxious film student (who immediately sheds any lingering cred by claiming that not only is Twilight about ghosts, but that it actually good) hanging out with his airhead friend Shay, her beefy womanizing boyfriend Calvin, Calivn's sister L'nette and pal Michael. As most groups of twentysomethings in Dallas do, they spend a few evenings playing with a non-Parker Brothers version of a ouija board.

Not, mind you, a Wee-Ji Board, which may be the most exciting knockoff thing I've ever discovered while shopping at Five Below.

Michael lays out the rules of the oujia, which include the all-important 'Never leave the room without saying goodbye' commandment that because it's repeated no less than four times, will inevitably be broken at least twice. 

What could possibly go wrong?

In this case, the quintet releases the ambiguous spirits of a murdered little girl named Gracie, her drowning foe Joseph, and her mother Lisa. The ghosts have all sorts of mean qualities, like spilling to Shay that Calvin's been cheating her and turning Michael's manly bathroom into a pink paradise. C'mon, people, you can't expect Lions Gate-esque terror when your major special effects involve your actors moving a pointer on a ouija board and not one but TWO jump scares that are simply Halloween decorations in storage.

As you can no doubt piece together, Israel Luna's The Ouija Experiment is not going to be shortlisted for the Oscars (or heck, People's Choice Awards) anytime soon. But you know, in the realm of found footage ghost stories made for less money than was used to cater Craft Services for the REAL Ouija, it has some charm. And by the way: considering Ouija starred young good-looking actors who probably don't eat, that's saying something.

To my surprise, The Ouija Experiment was made in 2011, several years before even the Asylum would have thought to capture a name. Granted, I figured this out for less than stellar reasons: one character references Paranormal Activity 1 AND 2, and there's a scene that involves a couple laughing and mimicking what was, in 2011, the hot YouTube "Hide Yo' Kids, Hide Yo' Wife" viral sensation.

The Ouija Experiment, you can say, is kind of dated. And not actually scary. And filled with amateur actors who give it their all, but clearly didn't have the screen experience or proper direction to know how to make a line like "I LOVE  YouTube" sound even mildly believable. If, however, reports about the budget being in the $1200 range are true, then I find myself in an awfully forgiving mood. I've seen worse films made for far more money. It doesn’t mean The Ouija Experiment is deserving of your time (for most of you with kids or cats or jobs or dishes to wash, it’s really far, far less important) but eh, it could have been much worse.

Film criticism at its finest!

High Points
There's something admirable about how director Luna was able to generate ghost suspense in spite of the utter predictability of his story. We've all watched enough of these kinds of films to know that when a little girl appears at the end of a long hallway, she's going to snap and sprint towards us or that when the camera is fixed and a character is facing it, something ominous will appear far behind him in the specifically empty frame. All of these trite touches are alive and thriving in The Ouija Experiment, but I'll still give Luna credit for building to these scenes skillfully enough that the sudden jerks of action occasionally really do work

Low Points
On the flip side, I can think of a lot better ways to generate creepiness than to film an actor literally reading about spirits from the computer screen in front of him

Lessons Learned
Always say goodbye

Always say goodbye

Always say good--

Eh, it’s not like you’re going to listen to the rule the characters repeat thirty five times during the course of the film’s 90 minute run time, so why bother?

I wouldn't particularly recommend The Ouija Experiment to anyone. It's a predictable and decisively unremarkable entry in a crowded field of found footage. I feel like it's a genuine compliment to say that while I was watching it, I likened it to Paranormal Entity in being an Asylum movie that was better than it needed to be. Now that I know it WASN'T an Asylum production,I guess I'd convert that opinion to dubbing it a better movie made under two weeks with a $1200 budget than it needed to be. Make of that what you will.


  1. Man, it's been forever and a forever since I've seen a Troma film!...Well, technically. I've seen some of the random movies they pick up for distribution relatively recently, but not the actual ones. I guess I'm much the same as you. The Troma sense of humour isn't really to my tastes much of the time.

    OHMYGOD EMILY! Breaking news! I can't believe I've never told you about Inspector Rex before! It's an Austrian cop show that's right up your alley. It's an often dark and morbid cop show, mixed in with the adorable antics and humour of police dog Rex, who solves cases with the kind of intelligence that would put all other dogs to shame! It's an awesome show, that became a viewing staple in Australia, probably moreso than in its home country.

    1. I feel like such an adult for realizing that about Troma! Welcome to old age!

      Inspector Rex. I need it in my life.

    2. Here are two of the intros. Adorable, I know!

  2. That slow motions! That nudging the pool ball in with his nose! The stealing of the donuts!


    It's Law & Order with a German Shepard in the Jerry Orbach role!