Have you Fellow Fans checked out any of the stuff coming outta Ireland for the last couple years? There’s some pretty thought-provoking horror flowing outta the Emerald Isle, with names like Ivan Kavanagh, Colin Downey, and Gerard Lough being some directors whose work I’ve enjoyed greatly. Having their own particular flavor, films like Tin Can Man, The Looking Glass, The Canal, and Night People take a more surreal path to horror, leaning more toward thought-provoking than outright exploitative. From my sadly limited exposure to them, I more often than not find that this “new wave” of Irish horror films to be some well-written slow-burn stuff, digging deep into what actually scares us.
The latest of these films I’ve been lucky enough to see is actually an Irish-Indian collaboration, maintaining that same darkly-surreal flavor I mentioned — Christophe Lenoir’s Ouija: The Insidious Evil (not to be confused with the similarly-named American film Ouija: Origin of Evil ).
Hannah is a young woman with some issues with her past — issues that come flooding back to her when she returns to her home to find answers and perhaps make peace her father in regards to her mother’s suicide. The relationship is a strained one, with her harboring a lot of resentment to her father, believing his infidelity led to her mother taking her own life. Working at a café in the town, she passes her time with her co-workers, especially the free-spirited Alice, an American girl who seems to have as many issues as Hannah herself does, albeit very different types of issues. Amidst these personal issues, the friends find diversion in an old antique store, where a mysterious old Ouija board draws their attention — and after a cryptic talk with the store owner, they leave with the board. Soon after, people that have wronged Hannah begin to have mysterious, really bad things happen to them — things of the fatal variety. After several of these incidents, she and her friends learn some odd history about the board, and the ties to the supernatural that it has begins to invade Hannah’s already troubled life. What secrets does her father hide? What forces are bound to this Ouija board? And how will the two collide, changing Hannah’s life forever?
When the final credits rolled, I found what I thought was a competent and relevant look at a true-to-life tragedy infused with a tale of supernatural stalking. Well-shot, with clever setups and use of contrast as well as making the most of some of Ireland’s beautiful scenery, the technical aspects of the film are extremely well done — especially considering the low-budget nature of the film. The performances were convincing and impassioned, with the lovely Emma Eliza Regan carrying a lot of the weight as Hannah, her inner pain showcased with a veneer of determined strength in the face of impossibility. Just as powerfully showcased were Alice’s struggles, well-played by Dominique Swain, portraying a thick veil of “tough girl” covering a deep emotional vulnerability. The rest of the supporting cast acquit themselves well, with standouts to me being Zeb Moore as Hannah’s stoic but loving father, and Michael Parle in a brief but important role as the antique shop owner.
Now, that said, I think the biggest failing in this film is it’s ambition — it really tries to do too much. Taking two good story ideas and combining them, while doing it in a clever and well-thought-out way, was just more than this flick’s runtime could do justice to. Things get murky about halfway in, and although the film does find a way to tie it all together in the end, the last reel had me scratching my head as few times as it played out. Of course, sometimes that kind of story is it’s own reward when one is able to figure out what’s going on — so there’s that. It’s really about what you’re looking for in your horror films.
Let me hasten to say that I myself enjoyed the film — as stated, the story, technical prowess, and acting keep this effort elevated above a lot of inexpensive films — but I want to let you guys out there know what you’re getting into. If you’re wanting blood, guts, and/or a simple, cut-and-dried storyline, you’d be better off moving along. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of thoughtful slow-burns, or a fan of Irish horror cinema, I recommend having this film on your watch list.