Ouija (2014)

OuijaChildhood friends Laine (Olivia Cooke) and Debbie (Shelley Hennig) haven’t played with a Ouija board since they were kids, or at least that’s what Laine has been lead to believe. When Debbie suddenly commits suicide, however, Laine begins to suspect that she might have recently played the game alone — going against the rules. Desperate for a chance to say goodbye, Laine brings together friends Pete (Douglas Smith), Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos) and sister Sarah (Ana Coto) for one final game of Ouija. Though they assume they are speaking to Debbie, however, research into the history of the house reveals that she might not be the only soul still residing there.

In production since 2008, when in the wake of Michael Bay’s Transformers film a number of other Hasbro properties were optioned for big screen adaptations, Ouija has taken slightly longer to produce than G.I. Joe or Battleship. And it shows, as while the finished film might not win any awards for originality it is by far the best of the lot. Co-writer and director Stiles White keeps things incredibly simple, telling a relatively straightforward story of poltergeists and possession, but while his film might include few twists or turns his obvious filmmaking abilities come as a very pleasant surprise. Ouija is well-staged, handsomely shot and nicely paced. This isn’t just a corporate cash-grab; it’s a half-decent horror film.

Opening with an apparent suicide, and dealing however indirectly with themes of child abuse and survivor’s guilt, Ouija is more than just a focus-grouped ninety minute advert for a global brand. As one of the characters says, Ouija is essentially a children’s game, but Ouija isn’t a children’s film. While far from terrifying, White has nevertheless orchestrated a number of successful jump scares. Having toyed with the board the group go their separate ways only to be accosted individually be the spirit they have invoked. One finds “Hi Friend” scratched into his desk, another finds the words etched on an underpass wall in chalk while Isabelle finds it smudged on her car windshield, only for a phantom hand to reach out from her empty vehicle to wipe it away.

The best scene takes place when the friends — scared by what they have seen — return to Debbie’s house to find out more. Sat once more around the board at the family’s dinner table they press the spirit for more information. The performances are unusually strong for a film of this kind, or perhaps it’s just that the characters are unusually likeable, so that when an empty chair is drawn from the table you jump not because you’re frightened but because they are. Sadly, however, the ensemble lacks a compelling or even coherent threat to rally around. The decision to have the ghosts possess people into killing themselves robs the hauntings of any suspense or urgency, as instead of giving the audience the opportunity to root for their characters writers White and Juliet Snowdon seal their fates instantly with clouded-over eyes from which there is apparently no escape. They genuinely deserve better.

Now that Hallowe’en’s over you may have very little reason to watch Ouija — unlike The Babadook, it plays almost exclusively to the holiday crowd — but that’s not to say that there isn’t still fun to be had. Aficionados might balk, but for everyone else it’s perfectly good fun.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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