– Summary –
Director : Stiles White
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasof, Bianca A Santos, Matthew Settle, Lin Shaye, Shelley Hellig, Robyn Lively, Claudia Katz.
Approx Running Time : 89 Minutes
Synopsis: A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.
What we think : Jump scares are the order of the day in this muddled, slow, mediocre thriller. An angry spirit from beyond the grave is the obligatory entity here, as a group of Abercrombie models run around a perpetually dingy town shrieking and looking stupid at each other. Ouija is not a decent scary film. In fact, aside from Olivia Cooke’s presence, there’s very little to recommend about it.
Answers you don’t want to see.
Plagued by reshooting and studio discontent with Stiles White’s initial version of Ouija (for those unfamiliar with French, it’s pronounced wee-ja, or wee-jee if you’re in Australia), the end result is a largely unpleasant horror flick masquerading as a horror flick. Ouija’s hook is that most of us have either played with a ouija board, or know folks who have, and so we know that it’s a way of supposedly tapping into the spirit world (if you believe in that kind of thing), and for as long as humans have been alive, we’ve always wanted to know what lies beyond the cold grip of death itself. Ouija doesn’t surprise so much as frustrate. Borderline competent direction and a cast of no-name performers, basic Hollywood cannon-fodder, make Ouija feels like a small-time independent film, but it’s not. Actually, it’s a film funded by toy company Hasbro – the same people behind the Transformers franchise, and 2012’s Battleship – although exactly why they’d want to make a film about a board that can communicate with the dea-….. oh, yeah, now I see it.
Ouija is one of those films where the guy directing it obviously watched a whole bucketload of Hitchcock before filming commenced. Stiles White, in his debut as director (he’s a well known visual effects dude going back as far as The Sixth Sense, among other films) obviously has a passion for spooky things, and no doubt enjoyed casting this film in as much shadow and hidden terror as he could muster from a rotten screenplay, but Ouija’s lackluster thrills are, by and large, haphazard at best. The scares that come and go are formulaic, as Olivia Cooke’s Laine and Ana Coto’s Sarah endure the haunting of a particularly menacing piece of wood.
Ouija starts with tragedy: one of Laine’s friends, Debbie (Shelley Hennig) kills herself after noticing a mysterious oiuja board at her house. Grief and loss start to play on Laine’s mind as she begins to suspect that the ouija board they played as kids might have opened up a portal to the supernatural world. Mysterious things start happening – doors open by themselves, creaks and groans come from nowhere, and naturally, things go bump in the night. The cast of bland, uninteresting supporting characters are lined up as fodder for the spooky stuff, as the body count starts to rise and Laine’s desperation elevates itself to paranoia. Stiles White co-scripted with Juliet Snowden, although how two people could conjure up a story with such little atmosphere, or so few genuine thrills is beyond me. It’s like a grade-school project with a big budget; Ouija’s lame-duck script and mediocre characters – not to mention White’s utterly glacial direction – have the effect of making one continuously check one’s watch, waiting for it to either pick up, or conclude. Neither occurs with any rapidity.
White appears to have mistaken quiet and stillness for atmosphere development, and he’s not a director of enough skill yet to really get a handle on the balance between pacing and tone. The film has the visual attitude of a genre piece, and the characters’ bland motivations and rote personalities are as you’d expect, but neither the thrills nor the logic of the film are worthy of your time. A number of mindless jump-scares might raise the skin a little, but they’re too few and too clumsy to make much difference. The “ghosts” of the story manifest in the most irritating manner, and typically in the most inept manner as well, as you’ll only be scared of this film if you find suddenly-opening doors and flickering light truly terrifying. Everyone else will probably be bored quite quickly.
Affording Ouija some measure of contempt is about as graceful a review I can provide. As a story, it’s half-hearted, as a film it’s largely tepid, refusing to get out of first gear, and inevitably the sound and fury of its climactic moments are reduced to waking the audience from the slumber they’ve probably been in for the first hour or so. As a B-movie designed to shock or titillate or thrill, Ouija offers nearly zero of anything, unless you count some minor Final Destination-esque death scenes to be your raison d’etre. What’s most frustrating about Ouija is that it never rises above a whisper, never elevates the pulse, and relies on the audience thinking more about the movie than the movie provides for.