Found footage films are going nowhere and are here to stay. Just when I think I’ve seen them all (or at least most of them) another one appears on my desk. The Ouija Experiment (2011) is one of the latest but this time its goal is to capitalize on our collective fear of the Ouija board game.
Brandon (Carson Underwood) is a film student whose friends have all gathered together to play a little game as orchestrated by Michael (Justin Armstrong). The game is Ouija and it’s meant to just be a fun and entertaining night between friends. When Brandon hears what Michael has planned he sees an opportunity to actually have a film about something. When the four friends play the game they don’t expect anything to happen but once the camera starts rolling strange things begin to happen. When the participants start asking the board personal questions the answers are not what each of them expected and they each start going at each other’s necks. When they forget the number one rule which is not to forget to say “Goodbye” to the entity that are in contact with they accidentally leave the door open to the Other Side and what started off as an innocent game turns into a deadly nightmare.
Deciding to rely on the characters and their relationships to one another to drive the narrative of the film is a good choice because the tension that builds between them as the entity behind the Ouija board reveals personal secrets is interesting. One thing that will appeal to most audiences is the very diverse cast which is unusual for a horror film (especially a low budget one). The diverse cast will definitely allow the film to find a larger audience. What really hampers the film is the lack of strong performances which are all over the map.
Another thing that hampers the film is that it relies too much on the “jump scare” to create suspense and tension. There seems to be a general assumption by the filmmakers that all ghosts should act menacing and bad even if it isn’t motivated as such which hurts the overall film once the truth of the haunting is ultimately revealed. Overall, if better care had been taken in regards to the plot and casting this could have been a stronger film but it’ll just be remembered as another found footage film that’s easily forgotten.