Movie Review: OUIJA: Origin Of Evil

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movie-review-ouija-origin-of-evilUniversal Pictures
2016
PG-13

“Do you know what it feels like to be strangled to death? First, you feel the pressure in your throat. Your eyes water, and you start to taste something very, very sour in your mouth. Then it’s like someone lights a match right in the middle of your chest, and that fire grows. It fills your lungs, and your throat, and all the way behind your eyes. And finally, that fire turns to ice; like pins and needles of ice are sticking into your fingers, your toes, your arms. You see stars, then darkness. And the last thing you feel… is cold. Goodnight, Romeo.”

In 1967 Los Angeles, widowed mother Alice Zander unwittingly invites authentic evil into her home by adding a new stunt to bolster her seance scam business. When the merciless spirit overtakes her youngest daughter Doris, the small family must confront unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

So, it seems that, despite Ouija being something of a dull snoozefest of a horror movie, the demographic it was aimed at with its PG-13 rating (young teenagers looking for Junior Thrills to feel all edgy and adult-like and stuff) still went out and made it a bunch of money, warranting a green-light for a sequel. Or something like that. That’s the only way I can rationalize something like Ouija getting a sequel made in the first place. It happens all the time, and that’s what is said about it to justify a sequel, “it made money”.

Control yourself, Uncle NecRo. Deep breaths. Don’t want to spend the entirety of this review lamenting how mediocre movies are more popular than actual good horror movies that remain and languish in obscure cult status. You’re here to talk about the sequel to Ouija that is really a prequel to the story in Ouija.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t looking forward to Ouija: Origin Of Evil. Even though I watched it back-to-back with Ouija as part of my standard Weekend of Horror/Sci-Fi Marathon, after watching the first one, I was sorely tempted to find an alternate title to cleanse the taste of mediocrity from my brain. Fortunately, though, Ouija: Origin Of Evil managed to do that by itself, just by being a vastly better movie than its predecessor.

Ouija: Origin Of Evil is a prequel to Ouija, in that it tells the story of the family that lived in the house previous to the characters in the first one, and how the titular board game came to touch their lives with whimsy and wonder by way of black magic.

Set in the 1960s, Alice, a single mother, is struggling to make ends meet to keep a roof over the heads of her and her two daughters, teenager Lina and grade schooler Doris. She does this by holding seances and other things that self-employed psychics do out of her house, most of which are, in fact, illusions and tricks employed to make the clients think they’re making contact with the other side.

You can probably see where this is going, but bear with me, here.

One night, after sneaking out of the house for a intimate shindig with friends, the oldest daughter plays the Ouija board for the first time (ending up with hilarious results), and suggests to her mother that they add it to their act to pump things up a notch. And so she does. And upon taking it out for a spin the first time, seems to unleash an entity that’s been tied to the house for decades before Alice and her minions took over residence. Or, as it turns out, a whole bunch of entities that have been stuck in the house due to a Nazi war criminal. Yeah, it’s always has to do with Nazis, doesn’t it. Anyway, one particularly nasty one takes possession of Doris, which leads to a whole bunch of creepy and downright bone-chilling supernatural shenanigans, which lead up to a bunch of other possessions and deaths that help set up that one scene in the first one that turned out to be the best part of that movie. Post-credit scene cameo from the Doris from the first movie, and booya, a far superior movie has been experienced.

Look, I know the why and the how Origin Of Evil is the vastly superior Ouija movie. This time around, there was a good script, a very good cast, which included one of the most convincing Creepy Child actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting creeped out at while watching this. Seriously, whether it was her staring at someone while smiling with an off-putting vibe, or cheerily describing to someone what it feels like to be choked to death (in one of the more amusing scenes, because she was playing with the head of her older sister’s would-be boyfriend), or gradually going all Evil Dead in the background shadows…yeah, that kid has made my Top 5 list of favorite Creepy Child characters. Maybe one day I shall share it with you. But for now, let’s finish up this review.

If you were given the choice between seeing only one of the (so far) two Ouija movies, I would strongly urge you to watch this one: Origin Of Evil. It’s a horror movie that does everything right, with minimalist effort. In other words, it seems that everyone involved learned their lesson from the first movie. Either way, check this one out, as it’s strongly recommended from your Uncle NecRo.

Movie Review: DOCTOR STRANGE

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movie-review-doctor-strangeDisney / Marvel
2016
PG-13

“You’ll die defending this world, Mister…”
“Doctor.”
“Mister Doctor?”
“It’s Strange!”
“Maybe, who am I to judge?”

Dr. Stephen Strange, a young, arrogant surgeon with a promising career, loses his ability to operate after a terrible accident. Despondent and suicidal, Dr. Strange seeks advice from a mystical being knowing as the Ancient One and learns that he is the newly designated Sorcerer Supreme, responsible for protecting the planet from evil. With his girlfriend Clea and his loyal assistant Wong in tow, Strange sets out to fulfill his destiny.

So, here we have the final Marvel movie of 2016, and it’s another origin story of another Marvel character that I never really bothered to check out back in my comic book geek days. Truth be told, I was very much “meh” about watching this particular entry in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would have been more than happy waiting to watch it when it got released onto DVD. But, certain members of the Exalted Geeks felt that I should tag along and watch as a group whole the weekend of its release, going so far as to secure the reservation at the theater we were going to watch it at. That, and we normally record a podcast about it, and I had the recording equipment.

So, I watched it. And, it wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t think it was going to be bad; like with Ant Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy, I didn’t think I would be as entertained as I was due to the lack of interest in the source material themselves. And once again, I was proven wrong. I sense a pattern, here.

Doctor Strange is the story of Benedict Cumberbatch effecting an American Accent and playing an extremely talented and successful neurosurgeon with the narcissistic ego to match. He gets into a car accident which injures his hands beyond complete repair, which sends him into a downward spiral and spending everything he has to find a way to bring his precious hands back. This leads him to Kathmandu (don’t hold your breath waiting for a Bob Segar joke, turns out the movie already makes one of those), where a mystic known only as the Ancient One reluctantly takes him in and begins teaching him the ways of inner healing…along with a bunch of trippy Hogwarts For Adults kind of things. Which all come in handy when some followers of a dark and powerful entity called Dormammu show up to destroy the three Sanctums and summon their master to this reality to cause darkness and chaos. Armed with his burgeoning abilities, along with the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto (Mister Roboto, domo), Doctor Strange must team up with the remaining slingers of the mystic forces and prevent Dormammu from coming in and messing with the Earth’s feng shui.

Doctor Strange can be boiled down as a mash-up of those Shaolin Kung-Fu movies with Harry Potter. Entertaining, yes; a nice mix of action and humor for balance, and some fantastic effects, especially with the first mystical trip-out scene. Ultimately, this is an origins movie, so the story is pretty straight-forward and not mixed in with the rest of the Marvel continuity as of yet. But, you get some glimpses of possible future usage of the future Sorcerer Supreme in the overall scheme. Most of the characters also have a kind of nuanced depth to their setup, which keeps them from being your standard “Good Vs. Evil” black and white hero story. Something they seemed to forget to do with Kaecilius, though it didn’t really hurt the overall dynamic.

In the end, Doctor Strange did turn out to be a good movie, entertaining and up to the standard Marvel Movie quality. Try and see this one in the theaters for the effects are gorgeous. Other than that, like Ant Man, I don’t really see myself seeing it more than once on the big screen.

Movie Review: MASTERS OF HORROR: The Damned Thing

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moh-thedamnedthingStarz / Anchor Bay Entertainment
2006
NR

The Damned Thing is the apocalyptic tale of a monstrous force that devastates Sheriff Kevin Reddle’s family and his small Texas town. Sheriff Reddle thinks there is a connection between this mysterious, invisible force which made his father kill his mother back in 1981, and he sets out to uncover and stop the so-called “Damned Thing” before it decimates his whole town by forcing the residents to kill each other and themselves.

I’ll be upfront and honest (like I usually am) by saying that I couldn’t really name another Toby Hooper movie beyond the original (and therefore superior) Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Well, there’s The Mangler, but I really have no intention of seeing that one any time soon. I have heard he had a hand, somewhat, with Poltergeist, but I think the majority consider that to be a Steven Spielberg joint. And with Texas Chainsaw Massacre being a visceral tour-de-force independent horror classic, I really didn’t know what to expect into watching Hooper’s entry in the Masters Of Horror series. Sufficed to say, pleasantly surprised I was.

The Damned Thing, the first episode of the second season of Masters Of Horror, is based on a short story of the same name, written by 19th century writer Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce, a fascinating author who infused a lot of his historical-based stories with a touch of supernatural. And then disappeared mysteriously in Mexico in the early 20th Century. Hooper’s take on The Damned Thing, set in a small town in Texas in the present time, deals with a sheriff who suddenly finds himself dealing with the citizens going bat guano crazy by the same entity that drove his own father to kill his mother and very nearly him at a young age. Now grown up with a son of his own — who stays with his estranged wife due to his paranoia of the entity’s return — he suddenly finds himself confronting his fears from the past as well as trying to maintain his sanity and protect his family as the wackiness ensues.

As an episode, The Damned Thing was pretty good. You get some good character development, I was kept on the edge of my seat, and there were some genuine creep-out moments. I have to admit, the monster reveal at the end was pretty cool as well. The Damned Thing isn’t the best of the Masters Of Horror series, mind you, but it isn’t the worst one either. At less than an hour, I can think of worse things you can do with your time.