Review: I Am ZoZo Fails to Deliver Ouija Board Frights

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I Am ZozoI Am ZoZo, which is based in part on actual events, follows a group of young friends as they tempt fate by playing with a Ouija Board on Halloween. Naturally, the youngsters conjure the attention of a nasty demon. The group soon learns that the entity answers to the name ZoZo.  As one might suspect, ZoZo is mad as hell and won’t be satisfied until someone’s day has been ruined.  

One unique aspect of I Am ZoZo is that the entire film was shot on Super 8 (and then digitized) in an attempt to pay homage to the horror films of yesteryear. The feature was shot in 4:3 and then stretched to 16:9, presumably to achieve the grainy texture associated with 8MM. That’s not something that you see much anymore and I commend director Scott Di Lalla for his decision to do something slightly unexpected.

Beyond that, there wasn’t a lot else that I liked about the picture. It seems that writer/director Scott Di Lalla was shooting for a cross between Witchboard and Paranormal Activity. Unfortunately, I Am ZoZo is far beneath the standard set by either of those films. ZoZo has innumerable flaws and never really finds its footing. The acting was pretty silly. Nearly the entire cast was comprised of first time actors and their collective inexperience was evident, immediately. The script was unpolished and the actors’ collective lack of experience didn’t do any favors for the already poor dialogue.

The exchanges between the cast was excessively silly to the point of sometimes being cringe-worthy. In one especially memorable – for all the wrong reasons – scene, a character says to her friend:  “Put your hand back on the planchette and shut your face-hole.” In another equally awkward moment, a character exclaims: “Let’s go bury apple seeds and celebrate this day!”

There were times when the performances were so hammed up that as the characters spat out their lines, I was reminded of high school students rehearsing a school play. As most of the cast came from a theater background, that makes a certain degree of sense, but it doesn’t make up for terrible acting throughout the film. One of the characters, Mel (Courtney Foxworthy), suffers from asthma and Foxworthy’s attempts to play an asthmatic are awful. Rather than sounding like a person afflicted with swollen lungs, she sounded like a wood saw cutting firewood.  

When the characters were conjuring spirits by way of the Ouija Board, I couldn’t help but laugh. Mel was sitting on the floor with her eyes closed squinting at the ceiling, while screaming at the spirits with whom they were communicating – as if to say that the dead are extremely hard of hearing.

The pacing is up, down, and all over the place.  The film starts off slow, picks up a little towards the middle and then is up and down for the back half of the feature. The ending seemed rushed and almost as if the production ran out of funds and had to wrap up in a big hurry. The scares, which there were only a few of, were pretty predictable.

The scene with a creepy girl in a sheet took me by surprise, not because it was jarring but because it had already famously been done in The Others. So, naturally, it didn’t hold the same impact when it happened in I Am ZoZo. The score was highly inappropriate for the scenes it was paired up with. It was probably and attempt to be creative and stray from the norm, but it backfired; all of the musical cues and music in the film were very out of place.  

The film seemed to just end, almost as if the production ran out of money and had to slap together an ending. Bottom line: you can do better for your money. If you are after Ouija Board antics, Witchboard – although not perfect – is a much more enjoyable film. 

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Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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