Tag Archives: Ghost Story

Ouija: Origin of Evil (Film) Review

I thought maybe I’d seen this movie before but it turns out not to be true. Like exorcism movies, I always get my Ouija board films confused too.

In this case I’m so glad this was new to me because I’ve been binge watching The Haunting of Hill House (2018) this weekend*, which is by the director of this movie, Mike Flanagan. And while I was going through his filmography this popped up, which was already on my 31 Horrors list. Bingo!

*Spoilers*

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

My Review

It’s the swinging sixties and recently widowed Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) has a pretty good fake medium racket going. With the help of her daughters Lina and Doris (Elizabeth Reaser and Lulu Wilson), she is able to convince ordinary folk that their late loved ones are communicating with them beyond the grave.

While some customers are dubious, Alice maintains that they’re offering the legitimate service of comfort and kindness – so who cares if it’s real? I sort of get her rhetoric to be honest. Anyway, the family are still pretty raw over the loss of Roger, the girls’ dad who has recently passed himself.

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I’d stick to Guess Who? if I were you, love.

When 15-year-old Lina goes to a sneaky house party at a friend’s house one evening, she stumbles across a Ouija board game, recently purchased by the parents of the household. Cynical about the so-called afterlife, Lina is level-headed when her and her friends sit down to have a play. Everyone’s freaked out but she is adamant that it’s all just a crock of shit.

She does suggest the Ouija to her mum as part of their scam business though and unfortunately for everyone concerned, Alice buys one. She has a little go before sharing with the group and little does she know, she summons a spirit called Marcus. Ooooooooo!

Doris also uses the board alone when she contacts her dad for help following a letter from the bank threatening foreclosure on the house. She is lead to a secret compartment in one of the walls that reveals a heap of money, thus saving the day.

The women then do the Ouija together believing it to be a pipeline straight to Roger. Doris seems to have the most affinity with the board and takes over as the star of the show but soon starts to pay the price. Slowly but surely she is possessed by something horrible. Lina gets freaked out by the change in her sister, particularly when she starts writing frenzied notes in what appears to be Polish.

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“Ouija pass me the salt, honey?”

Luckily, kindly widower Father Tom (Henry Thomas) is kicking about to help the family, and when Lina mentions Doris’ oddness, he comes over under the pretense of chatting to his deceased wife Gloria. He then reveals to Lina and Alice that the Polish shorthand notes are entries written by an immigrant named Marcus (and transcribed through Doris), who was tortured by an evil doctor in the basement of the house during World War II. Awkward.

Meanwhile, Doris just keeps getting weirder and weirder – and is very not okay, hun. Basically the house is rife with evil angry spirits down below and the family have got their work cut out for them. Will they come together when it matters to kick Marcus and his pals’ ghostly arses – or?

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Eye eye, Ouija look at that.

My Thoughts

Hmm. Yes. Yes I liked this very much. It’s a nice period piece loyal to the time period and is genuinely creepy. There are times it’s a little heavy handed on the effects but I didn’t mind that. All three women are convincing and I really enjoyed the climax.

I haven’t gone into it too deeply for fear of spoiling it but it is an interesting lament on grief and longing. Like, wouldn’t we all do similar just to speak to the precious ones we’ve lost? I know I would – and I have. My one and only brush with the Ouija when I was backpacking in Australia was terrifying and I believe it completely. Or at least I believe in the fear and behaviour it can invoke.

If we’re honest, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new here but something Mike Flanagan does well is characterisation (back to Hill House) and he obviously has a lot of love for the genre, which comes across in his work. I’m a big fan and I really like how he continues to use the same actors across the board. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I love HH so much (*and will be waffling on about it soon) but this was good too.

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my little demon think of this one? Would she haunt it until the end of time or throw it in the goddamn furnace? Find out here.

Autumn Book Recommendation: The Little Stranger

My first (and possibly only) Autumn book recommendation this year is this brilliant novel by one of my faves, Sarah Waters. I first read it on my honeymoon over seven years ago and vividly remember being frozen in fear in the middle of the night, having just read another chapter.

The Little Stranger focuses on the inhabitants of once grandiose Hundreds Hall, the Ayres family. Hundreds Hall is now crumbling, a shadow of its former self – and war-damaged Roderick and his sister Caroline are trying hard to keep the family afloat, and keep the truth of their dire situation a secret from their mother.

When local Doctor Faraday finds himself involved with the family, all manner of weirdness starts to spill into his life. What the heck is going on? I’m currently having a re-read in time for the movie adaptation coming later this month and it’s stunning.

It’s not just the truly spooky set up that leaves you wanting more, it’s the way Waters crafts a sentence. Her characters are so well written you really feel you know them after only a few moments and that makes you care what happens to them. Hundreds Hall is a vivid landmark in the mind thanks to the way she describes it – and I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the film and the casting.

I recommend this because it’s perfect for an Autumn eve, once the sun’s gone down and the dinner plates have been cleared away. I love to read in the bath and this accompanies that well.

I’ll crack open a new bottle of bubble bath and light a candle too, why not?

Book details:

The Little Stranger
Publisher: Virago (23 Aug. 2018)
ISBN-10: 0349011435
ISBN-13: 978-0349011431
Bought movie tie-in paperback (new)

What are you reading?

Marrowbone

The Secret of Marrowbone (2018) or Marrowbone (original and much better title)

IMDB Synopsis

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

*Spoilers*

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something gentle and spooky, much like the Gothic novels I like to read in the Autumn.

Marrowbone is perfect for these occasions and ticks all the creepy boxes nicely. It also offers up a genuinely moving tale of loss, secrecy and familial loyalty which plays out in the hands of a good-looking young cast, which includes The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy, Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton and A Cure for WellnessMia Goth.

When the family matriarch (Nicola Harrison) passes away after an illness, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) is left to keep the family afloat. Having promised his mother on her death-bed to keep her passing a secret from society, lest the children be split up, Jack keeps his siblings mainly indoors. This arrangement is far from satisfactory to Jane (Goth), Billy (Heaton) and little Sam (Matthew Stagg) but needs must and all that.

Marrowbone

Especially when the family harbor more than just this secret. Comfort and normality does come to the children however, in the form of the lovely Allie (Taylor-Joy) who befriends them instantly and becomes a joyful part of their every day life. But, as the romance between Jack and Allie deepens, love rival Porter (Kyle Soller) becomes dangerously jealous – and this in turn threatens to bring the true story of the Marrowbones out in the open.

And what’s with all the weirdness going on at the house while we’re at it?

What I like about Marrowbone is that for a long time we can only feel the tension and the fear as it manifests itself around the family home and for a contemporary ghost/horror not to play its hand so soon makes it stand out more to me. You can’t accuse this of being scary really but it has some effective moments and I enjoyed it as a thriller that sometimes has the vibe of a Sunday night BBC drama. (Not necessarily a bad thing).

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As the story unfolds it leaves you feeling more and more sympathy for the family and the climax is a bit of a corker, in a heart wrenching way. It also looks at mental illness from an interesting perspective and in a way I haven’t seen that much before on film.

Not bad at all.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories (2017)

Directed by: Andy NymanJeremy Dyson
Starring: Andy NymanMartin FreemanPaul WhitehouseAlex Lawther

IMDB Synopsis

Arch skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

*Minor spoilers*

Man, I love me an anthology and this British horror ghost collection is no exception. It’s fucking weird though, which is hardly surprising given the involvement of The League of Gentleman co-writer Jeremy Dyson.

Skeptical Pro Goodman (Nyman) makes his living debunking all manner of supernatural goings on. If there’s a dodgy séance going on in a chilly church hall, he’ll be there to expose it for what it really is: a pile of steaming bull crap. Straight up, the Pro does not believe.

When he receives a mysterious summons from an old inspiration, he’s tasked with uncovering the so-called truth about three so far unexplained ghost sightings. These stories revolve around a night watchman (Whitehouse) in an abandoned asylum (what good could ever come of those words, I ask you?), a beastly haunting in the woods and a pesky poltergeist.

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Will these stories chill Goodman’s blood and turn his head forever – or will he see the strings and disprove them once and for all? Well…

I saw this early as part of Odeon cinema’s Scream Unseen and I was pretty stoked about it. Based on the stage play of the same name, also by Nyman and Dyson, it’s genuinely creepy in places. It’s also bat shit crazy and plays with structure, keeping the traditional format fresh.

Unlike most anthologies, it keeps things tight with no truly weak links. I think my favourite setting is the asylum (which comes down to personal taste) – and Paul Whitehouse blew me away as the rattled former night watchman who has no explanation for what he saw one fateful night.

We also meet Simon Rifkind (Lawther), a young man too scared to sleep after an altercation in the woods with something inhuman. Lawther to me is one of our best new actors, catching my attention in the deeply distressing Shut Up and Dance episode of Black Mirror and most recently in The End of the F***ing World. His Simon is borderline deranged and can you blame him?

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Lastly we spend time with banker (and new dad) Mike Priddle, who lives in a grand old house in the country. He tells the story of his own personal haunting and it’s a dozy, obviously.

Each of the segments display the sense of humour you’d expect from this team and the climax is pretty special. It might not be for everybody but I appreciate it for what it is – a ghost story that plans to stick in the mind, not fade from memory seconds after the credits roll.

I hope people will see this and love it. It’s just so nice to see something on the big screen that’s brings something new to the table. There are so many mediocre American horror films being churned out – sometimes you just need a little injection of something new.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Winchester

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (Film) Review

enjoy-3First of all, the prize for the greatest movie title goes to this pick, which was mine sort of but more Jillian’s because Netflix kindly released it just in time for Halloween and she’s been so looking forward to it. It was therefore a no-brainer that this would be our last Halloween movie of the month!

(I’ve a feeling we might stretch this a bit, so sue us).

A little info about the movie: IATPTTLITH is a 2016 American-Canadian horror film which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s so far been received quite well with comparisons drawn to Shirley Jackson’s work (tone I think more than specific material), as well as Roman Polanski, Kubrick and David Lynch (all influences I picked up during my viewing, more below).

As I typed that last paragraph and remembered a particular scene, I felt a chill run up my spine which is an excellent sign I would say. To the film!

*Spoilers ahead, yo*

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

Director: Oz Perkins
Stars: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban

IMDB Synopsis: A young nurse takes care of an elderly author who lives in a haunted house.

My Review:

A nervy nurse called Lily (Wilson) arrives at the home of successful horror novelist Iris Blum (Prentiss), who is now bedridden and requires live-in care. Iris has no family or friends to speak of and talks only rarely. Lily herself is getting over a broken engagement so is almost grateful for the quiet afforded to her by the big empty house.

On the first night however, she gets freaked out by unfamiliar sounds and an incident that she manages to explain away easily, putting it down to first night nerves. (I’d have been out of there as quickly as my little trotters could carry me, so she’s braver than me).

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This shot. This scene. This cardigan.

What Lily thinks will be a short stay ends up being eleven months and counting. During this time her only contact with the outside world is with Iris’ estate manager, Mr Waxcap (Balaban) who doesn’t give much away. When Lily asks him to look at an ever-spreading patch of damp in the hallway, there’s a long conversation about whether it’s really necessary given the fact Iris is dying. His general demeanor is brusque and to the point.

During the same visit, Lily asks Mr Waxcap who Polly is, as Iris often calls out for a Polly and calls Iris by that name. Mr Waxcap doesn’t really know the answer but refers Lily to Iris’ most successful novel, The Lady in the Walls, the main character of which is named Polly. He looks shifty at this point I think, and buggers off soon after the topic of Polly comes up.

Well, Lily is a pussy (again, she’s definitely a better woman than I) and not at all down with reading any of Iris’ work but she hasn’t much choice if she wants to unravel the story and find out more about Polly. As this slowly plays out, the damp keeps spreading, it keeps raining outside and things go bump in the night.

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“I was hoping for Hollywood Wives to be honest…”

Lily has a feeling that the story of the lady in the walls is based on the house and piece by piece, concludes that something horrifying happened there. We, the viewer, get an insight into what that was – AKA. what became of Polly (Boynton) – via the medium of flashback. We also get a glimpse of the young novelist Iris, who’s cool as fuck.

This film does have a shock ending, which we already have a fair idea of, as Lily herself tells us in her opening monologue. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say it’s spooky af and rather sad.

Notice I’ve done away with the questions section? There aren’t many left here at the end as it’s quite a well rounded conclusion but it does make you think: What is the moral of the story? I think it’s about not allowing yourself to dwell on the past or you’ll rot away. Ooooooo!

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Yes I have a fetish for smokers in films

My Thoughts:

It may seem as though nothing much happens and it would be accurate to describe this as a slow burner, however it’s so atmospheric and genuinely chilling that to have approached it in any other way would surely have lost it its nuance. From the first spooky scene, which occurs as Lily talks on the phone with her friend, to the conclusion, I had goosebumps.

Dat phone cord scene though…

I was also very happy to be viewing something so old-school and rich in 2016 (with shades of good Hammer Horror). Not to say there aren’t truly brilliant, gorgeous ghost/horror stories made today, they just seem so few and far between.

There are a few cheap thrills that you can see coming but they’re executed in such a way that I didn’t really mind. I love the concept of your imagination fucking with you and there’s a particular scene, after Lily reads a few pages of Iris’ book and then stares into a darkened doorway that reminded me of how I felt when I read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters on my honeymoon.

During one scene I got a distinct The Shining vibe and, although the old house is fresher than a Polanksi setting it has the same historic feel, as though the walls have eyes that watch every move. Ruth Wilson is very good as is the beautiful Paula Prentiss who plays the older Iris Blum.

A really interesting, and intelligent literary flavoured film.

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She’d always wanted her own Batman bed

My Rating: 4/5. Genuinely eery and recalls a simpler time when horror was very imagination driven, though it doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to shocking either. Loved it.

What did my wifey, The Pretty Thing That Lives in Her House think? Was she haunted by this movie or did it leave her colder than an empty damp dwelling? Find out here.

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I wish my kitchen was this tidy