‘Ouija’ Or (The Terror Of Diminished Expectations)

I caught Ouija last weekend, and it was okay; by which I mean that it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve seen (which barely qualifies as praise).  It had moments of interest, though thematically as well as visually it played out eerily similar to movies like The Conjuring, Annabelle and Insidious (which were also produced by Blumhouse Pictures, which I hope is just a coincidence).

What happened to the days when horror movies weren’t afraid to take a risk or two?

When a movie might actually do something that might offend someone’s sensibilities, but as a result end up at the very least an interesting exercise, if nothing else.  And the thing is, it’s not about money because movies like Ouija, The Conjuring and Insidious–which I use purely as examples–aren’t particularly expensive, which in the past often meant that filmmakers could do something a bit out of the ordinary because no one was going bankrupt if the movie tanked.

Gulllermo del Toro has for the longest time been trying do a movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness.  Initially, he was adamant that the movie have an R-rating–a position that he’s relented on–as well as costing somewhere in the ballpark of $150 million (a position he has not relented on).

Though I can see why Universal didn’t decide to go with his original idea.

If it were to cost as much as he wanted, with an R rating, the studio wouldn’t see a dime of profit until it pulled in somewhere in the ballpark of $400-500 million, which would be very unlikely because the potential audience would be restricted to 17-year-olds and above, unless they were accompanied by an adult or guardian.

And it would make little difference that movie would be produced by James Cameron and star Tom Cruise (which was going to happen at the time) because it was likely to have sank faster than the Titanic.

But Ouija cost, according to Filmdrunk, $48 million to produce, and as of today has earned just over $25 million, so I expect that it’s going to be fine.  After all, what’s one more mildly disquieting movie–”horror” is too strong a word it–with blandly attractive white adults acting like they’re teenagers?

That being said, imagine if the producers took a chance and did something even slightly less interesting than, let’s say, Cabin In The Woods?  A movie that not only was a lot of fun, but pushed the boundaries of what a horror movie is–despite the fact that Cabin is essentially an episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer taken to its penultimate conclusion, as opposed to anything terribly innovative or unusual.

In the past, when a movie was relatively cheap to produce, it meant that the producers were willing do some really unusual things.  Nowadays, it seems that even low budget movies are becoming as safe and as uninteresting as many of their big-budged brethren.

And as viewers, we’re paying the price for studios’  cautiousness.

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