Ouija House (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ouija House (2018)

Film: The cover to this film boldly presents this film to star both American Pie’s Tara Reid and The O.C.’s Mischa Barton which I find really weird as it seems to me that having their names on a DVD is like those awful photos and warnings that you find on a cigarette packet, though just like those warnings, those of us addicted to horror sally forth regardless and suck up their awful goodness.

Maybe the addition of Dee Wallace (Cujo) takes the edge off?

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Carly Schroeder’s name helps too, but I’m not sure one of the Lizzie MacQuire stars is quite horror royalty.

Anyway, I should point out that this is not a part of the ‘Ouija’ film series that includes ‘Ouija’ (2014) and ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ (2016) but instead one of the knock offs using the ‘Ouija’ name to tap into some of those films popularity… did they even have enough popularity to even do that?!?

If we are even questioning that, I guess they MUST have!

This film was directed by Ben Demaree, the director of Apocalypse Pompeii and Dear Diary I Died, and was written by Justin Hawkins and Jeff Miller, who also co-wrote 2019’s Dolls.

Our tale of the Ouija House begins in 1988, with a group of people, (including Tara Reid and Tiffany Shepis) who are in what appears to be an old, unused house where it was rumoured murder and torture and witchcraft occurred, using a Ouija board to communicate with any spirits who may exist within the house. Of course, this being a horror movie and not an historical drama, everything ends badly.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to Laurie Fields (Carly Schroeder) who is studying demonology at University (cool uni!) and intends on going to the same house, her Aunt’s, for research, even though her mother Katherine (Dee Wallace Stone) has strictly forbidden it.

Laurie goes against her wishes and travels to the house regardless with her friends, Nick (Mark Grossman), Tina (Grace DeMarco) and Spence (Derrick A. King), where they will be meeting her cousin Samantha (Mischa Barton).

The house seems normal enough but after Tina finds a doll, she begins to act… off, and the supernatural shenanigans begin…

The premise of the story is actually pretty good, and even the some of the performances are ok: it’s cheap popcorn horror, but it’s executed well. There’s some pretty stupid inconsistencies in the story, and I mean glaring, dumbass inconsistencies, but there are a few conceptual ideas that are pretty innovative… none I can discuss without spoiling the movie, so please, just trust me.

Barton and Reid are clearly here for name purposes only, though I’m not sure if their names either hit the young hip horror crowd, or the older, degenerative fans (like me, and you can tell I’m one of them as I used the word ‘hip’. These days it’s more ‘hip replacement’). I think the marketing department on Ron Lee Productions need to look deeper into who is cult-popular and cheap.

Overall, it’s a tidy, and mildly innovative story, with a cute cast and a soundtrack reminiscent of some 80s synth scores (by Johnathon Price) so it gets an extra bit of credit from me for that.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment Australian DVD release, presented in a decent and unblemished 1.77:1 image with a clear and precise 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing, not even a DVD menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: I can confirm any prediction that may suggest I will never watch this again. Not because it’s bad, but just because it’s a one-watch screamer.

Sidecar Racers (1975)

One from the to watch pile…

Sidecar Racers (1975)

Film: I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which was an amazing celebration of the Australian film industry’s darker, and perhaps occasionally sleazier side. There is a problem with admiring that doco as much as I do, though.

I have found myself in a situation where all you have to do to sell me a film, is describe it as an ‘Ozploitation Classic’ and dammit, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have found so many films of this ‘Ozploitation period’ that my stupid DVD and Bluray collection is swollen with so many films that I may not have bothered with.

The Gods of Marketing have discovered my Kryptonite and take advantage of it at every opportunity.

This offering is certainly a film that I would never have bothered with as it’s about a sport, and I have a mind and a body made for horror, sci-fi and action, I’m afraid, but here we are, due to that dastardly label.

Sidecar Racers was directed by prolific American TV director Earl Bellamy, who worked on everything from The Brady Bunch to The Mighty Isis, from a script by John Cleary, who has several of his novels made into movies, such as High Road to China and Scobie Malone (based of his book ‘Helga’s Web’).

Sidecar Racers tells of Jeff Rayburn (Ben Murphy), a former American Olympic swimmer who is spending is time bumming around Australia, trying to figure out what to do with his life when he happens upon Lynn (Wendy Hughes) who sees his amazing balance whilst surfing and introduces him to her not-quite boyfriend, Dave (John Clayton), a sidecar motorcycle racer who was responsible for the death of his former racing partner in a horrific crash.

Dave and Jeff become a solid team and have dreams of hitting the European Sidecar Racing Circuit, but only if their partnership can survive their mutual affection for Lynn, a local motorcycle gang and more importantly, Dave’s seemingly self-destructive nature.

One of the things I found amazing about this movie is the fact that you’d have to be an absolute bloody mad-person to have ever engaged in this sport! Crappy 70s cycle-gear, nutso-drivers and insane daredevilry make for a spectacle that I can’t say I’ve seen before.

This film, of course, has a few names floating around in it other than the ones I’ve mentioned above. John Meillon (Crocodile Dundee) plays a mechanic known as ‘Ocker’, Peter Graves (Million Impossible TV series) plays Lynn’s father and type magnate Carson and Australian well-known TV face Serge Lazareff, seen in things like Bluey, Cop Shop and A Country Practice.

It’s a weird film too. It comes across as a pretty straight drama, with an occasional odd directorial choice. For example, there is a ‘musical interlude’ scene where a live band is playing at a party, and the singer spends part of the time looking directly into the camera as if she’s aware that it’s there. Fans of understated and subtle acting won’t find much here for them either as it’s as melodramatic like you wouldn’t believe. Every piece of emotion is underlined with shouting rather than actual ‘acting’.

The films also runs at 100 minutes, which is probably about 20 minutes too long, and even then, the ending is ultimately, a little unsatisfying.

This is a fun, albeit silly film that for me is more interesting as a document of Australia in 1975. Honestly, I didn’t realise that Wendy Hughes was such a stunner either, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release which is presented in a surprisingly good 1.33:1 image with a clear 2.0 mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, not even a menu screen. The disc rolls straight into playing the film.

Score: 0

WISIA: It not being the type of film I’d normally watch, but for the images of Australia in 1975 it’s worth looking at again.

Krull (1983)

One from the to watch pile, even though it’s technically a rewatch, though I haven’t seen the film since it’s first release on VHS in the 80s…

Krull (1983)

Film: I am terribly sorry to those of you who love the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings/ Hobbit films, but they aren’t for me. I don’t like ‘em. Sure they are technological achievements in cinema and Jackson fulfilled a lifelong dream, but they are just so looooooooooooooong, and boring.

Yep. Boring.

What I want from a fantasy film is expediency in storytelling, a story that tells a Dungeons and Dragon styled ‘bunch of rogues versus impossible evil’ tale, a pile of violence, and maybe, just maybe, boobs.

Krull was directed by Peter Yates, who directed things like The Deep, An Innocent Man and Eyewitness, from a script by Stanford Sherman, who wrote a whole bunch of episodes of the Batman TV show from the 60s, and honestly, that possibly shows with this movie.

Krull tells of the occupants of the planet called… Krull! Krull has a scourge on its surface though in the form of the Beast (voiced by Trevor Martin), and his constantly teleporting vehicle/ castle/ meteor The Black Fortress.

On the evening of the wedding of opposing kingdoms Colwyn (Ken Marshall) and his bride, Lyssa (Lysette Anthony), The Beast attacks and everyone is killed, except for Colwyn, and Lyssa is kidnapped. With everyone from both sides of the family killed, Colwyn in now the king of a united kingdom, but has no army.

So, he travels across the land, collecting a band of miscreants, including a cyclops who is cursed to see his own death (Bernard Bresslaw), a wizard (David Battley), an elderly seer (Freddie Jones) and a gang of escaped convicts (including Robbie Coltrane, Liam Neeson and Alun Armstrong with several others) overcoming many obstacles and adventures until they finally find themselves at the gates of The Black Fortress, ready to save the princess trapped inside.

So, yes, what you see here is the classic fantasy story with all the tropes, like kidnapped princess, evil bad guy, ragtag gang of heroes, charming male lead, that has been used in everything from Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, to Star Wars and even video games, and Krull doesn’t try to rise above and challenge those lofty themes.

The world of Krull, like Star Wars, is a wholly fantasy one that exists outside of any Earthly timeline… perhaps it too, is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… though it appears to be set in a D&D styled environment, with a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure.

As I mentioned, the script is as one would expect. It’s camp and attempts a Shakespearean styled dialogue even though what they are saying is melodramatic claptrap… which I guess is perfectly Shakespearean! Thankfully the performances are solid, and the direction and cinematography is amazing. The exterior shots are impressive long shots which show amazing scenery, and the smaller scenes and interiors, all filmed in a soundstage a Pinewood Studios incredibly, look fine.

The special effects are occasionally clunky, but it’s to be expected. In actual fact some of them are quite effective, like the stop-motion crystal spider and even the cyclops’s prosthetic eye, though Bresslaw’s lack of vision is occasionally apparent when he has trouble manipulating objects.

There is also a couple of effects which are surprisingly gruesome for a G rated film, especially in regards to the Beast’s appearance, and the fact that his H. R. Giger-ish soldier’s head split open and release a bloody worm that burrows into the ground.

Krull is a fun rollicking adventure that you can watch with the kids. Sure it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s charm outweighs how derivative it might appear.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This bluray release of Krull from Umbrella Australia is presented in a 2.35:1 image with a Dolby DTS 5.1 audio, both of which are really nice for a film that’s 30 years old.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a nice mix of extras on this disc.

We have two commentaries (found under the ‘Audio’ selection rather than in the extras). One is a cast and crew commentary performed by director Peter Yates and performers Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony and another labelled a ‘Behind the Scenes’ Commentary, which features a reading taken from Cinefantastique, a now deceased sci-fi magazine.

In the regular Extras section, there is a trailer for the film, Journey to Krull, a half hour TV special on the making of the film and finally, a look at the Marvel Comics Movie Special of Krull, which came out in 1982 (Marvel Comics, in the 80s, and after the success of the comics of both Star Wars and to a lesser extent, 2001:A Space Odyssey, was doing heaps of comic adaptations of films, some of which became regular series’s, like the aforementioned Star Wars and The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones). This feature shows panels of the comic with dialogue from the film played over the top.

The cover is also reversible: one side has new art from Simon Sherry and the other has the original poster art from the 80s.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Now that it’s back under my nose, I’m sure I’ll have no problem putting it in again when I feel like a nice easy watch.