“Keep telling yourself it’s just a game”
Director: Stiles White
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff
Synopsis: A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.
The lengthy and predictable pre-credits prologue to Ouija tells us all we need to know about the quality of the film that’s about to follow. A teenaged girl called Debbie Galardi (Shelley Hennig) throws an Ouija board into a fireplace before confessing to her friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) that she’d been freaked out after playing it alone. All the more reason, you’d expect, for Debbie to accept Laine’s invitation to the baseball game, but no, Debbie would prefer to return alone to the house in which she was so recently freaked her out. Some people just deserve to die – don’t they realise they’re in a horror movie? Anyway, shortly afterwards, when doors start opening by themselves and the cooker’s hob spontaneously ignites, you’d think Debbie might get the idea that now might be a good time to skedaddle. Not a chance. As scared as she might be, Debbie elects to wander around the misbehaving house in the dark. Need I go on..?
After the funeral, while keeping an eye on the Galardi house for Debbie’s grieving parents, Laine finds that Ouija board her friend had thrown on the fire in the film’s opening scene only to find it undamaged on her bed moments before her untimely death. Laine decides that this board will provide her with the perfect means of contacting her dead friend and finding out exactly how she died, so she recruits the usual suspects to take part in a séance in the house. Unfortunately for them, Debbie’s isn’t the only spirit in the house: instead of reuniting with their old friend, Laine and co find themselves talking to the spirit of a dead girl who had her lips sewn together by her mother. Even worse, Mum’s still hanging around, and she’s not too happy about a bunch of teens making contact with her daughter. Shortly afterwards, Laine’s friends mysteriously begin to die…
The fact that Ouija received a 15 rating in the UK – and an even lower 13 in the US – is a reliable indicator of the quality of scares you can expect. There’s a lot of sudden noises and jump cuts, and people stand behind open cupboard doors without making their presence known to the person looking in the cupboard. Terrifying stuff for a twelve year old, but not exactly groundbreaking for us grown-ups. It’s a full 45 minutes before anything of real significance happens following Debbie’s death, and the besieged teens – most of whom don’t look a day under 25 – adhere to the unwritten law of crap horror movies which states that they must apply no rational thought to their actions nor seek help from sources outside of the group.
The evil spirits are ok, but they’re nothing special, and the lack of scares combined with a dull, slow plot, left me with time to reflect on how evil spirits always favour the slow build up. They never just show up at the first séance and whisk their victims off to some dark corner of hell or purgatory or wherever it is that spirits reside. On the plus side, Olivia Cooke has spirit and spunk to spare, despite the stubbornly prosaic nature of the script, novice director Stiles White does manage to rustle up one genuinely creepy moment in the attic of the haunted house, and there is one reasonable twist. Otherwise, though, Ouija is just an ordinary horror movie that finds it impossible to distinguish itself from the umpty-thousand horror flicks already out there.
(Reviewed 12th May 2015)