Wednesday 6 February 2019

Ouijageist (UK 2018: Dir John R.Walker)

I've been waiting for Ouijageist for a while. It was finished early in 2018 and received its first (and only) big screen outing at the Derby Film Festival that year.

India Harper (Lois Wilkinson) is a single mother who has moved from a grotty flat with her young daughter into an airy suburban semi, found for her by her mother Karen (Lesley Scoble, who was in Village of the Damned back in 1960 and, with her twin sister Teri, appeared as Siamese Twins in 1980's The Elephant Man) and family friend Laurie (Roger Shepherd). But, rather like the Hammer House of Horror episode 'The House that Bled to Death' (which in look Ouijageist closely resembles) it's not long before things start going wrong. This run of bad luck may possibly have been prompted by India finding a 'Witchboard' game abandoned in the back garden (it's a ouija board to you and I but, in the first of many film references throughout this flick, I'm going to guess that this is a nod to the Witchboard movies of the 1980s). First, after playing with the thing, India's friend Rebecca falls downstairs, sustaining injuries from which she later dies. Then baby Emily (India Raqia-Walker) nearly scalds herself to death in a bath, the bathroom door mysteriously closing behind her.

India strongly suspects that these incidents are more than coincidence, and when her pet dog's head is found (well actually it's thrown at her by an unseen presence) and the window cleaner karks it in a mysterious hose accident, she's convinced of it. Mum decides to employ the services of the cloth; firstly Father West, who gets an Amityville Horror style welcome at the house, then the more pragmatic Bishop Chapman who wants to carry out an exorcism, but, he warns, "don't expect any of those Father Merrin Power of Christ antics!"

And that line kind of sums up most of Ouijageist really. There is horror but it's largely played down, making it for the most part a suburban drama with things that go bump in the night. Things do eventually move to an Evil Dead style climax - presaged by a cafe scene where India's slacker ex breaks out in pentagramic welts and spews bile everywhere - and to be honest these scenes feel like they've strayed in from another movie altogether.

But there's a lot of fun to be had here, despite some occasionally ho hum performances. There is some very impressive camerawork on display from Matthew Hickinbottom; the score is also rather striking, although I'm somewhat confused as the film credits Liam W. Ashcroft whereas imdb lists one Jean Michel Noir (trading as Liam Smith). Anyway, it's good to hear a soundtrack where the string synthesiser isn't the only toy in the box, and Ashcroft/Noir/Smith's tones cover all points Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter very effectively.

But it's the affectionate nods to the genre that made this film for me. In particular there's a great homage to the (original) Poltergeist 'chairs on table' scene, explained away by India's mum as the product of her doing a spot of vacuuming. And I bet you never see another movie with a cine literate priest who puts up a spirited defence of Poltergeist II: The Other Side with a straight face. Well done to all, and I look forward to future projects from the team.

Ouijageist is available in the UK on Amazon Prime Video now.

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