Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Ouija Blood Ritual

My notes on Ouija Blood Ritual, which is out in the US on digital platforms.

This has a very basic found footage premise, but manages some genuine low-budget chills – its main menace, the Closet Man (Brandon Salkil), is eerily presented as a human-shaped block of shadow – and has decent character interplay, which makes it as much a study of a creative enterprise falling apart through erratic behaviour as a standard ‘arghh it got me’ exercise.

Kayla (Kayla Elizabeth), her brother Dustin (writer-director Dustin Mills) and his friend Rob (Rob Grant) are putting together a series of webisodes about creepypasta/urban legend practices, carrying out the believably banal instructions for a series of rituals that are supposed to summon malign entities.  Despite viewing footage that suggests another team have come a cropper going down this route, the trio begin filming at creepy locations, and improvising their way through the rituals.  When Kayla hesitates at cutting her hand and staying in a dark closet (actually a non-functioning freezer) for hours, Dustin impulsively steps in … and naturally gets targeted by a being it seems only he can see, which he doesn’t tell the others about, but also starts to behave erratically on the shoots, sabotaging a project which was mainly his idea.

The scene that rings truest comes when Kayla is ploughing on with a set-up with a haunted doll while an offscreen Dustin, who has badly framed the shot to clip off everyone’s heads, launches into a tirade against the whole enterprise, turning on his sister and his friend when they try to deal with him sympathetically.  It’s probably down to the curse, which has manifested in several unsettling sequences, but this is also one of the best depictions I’ve seen of something everyone who does collaborative, creative work will recognise – when someone for obscure reasons tries to sabotage something at a point when everyone else on the team has done too much work to junk the whole idea but who is still needed to get the thing finished.

Performances are uniformly good, and the glimpses of gruesome fates and long-fingered bogeyman hands add some actual visual horror to a form that too often relies on ranting panic and jittery camerawork (both of which are on offer).  A short, small-scale feature, it scares above its weight class.


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