A girl is mysteriously killed playing with an ancient Ouija Board, which leads to a close group of friends to investigate her death. They soon find out that some things aren’t meant to be played with.
Every now and again a mainstream horror film is released which is actually pretty good. It’s a rare event, but it does happen. Unfortunately Ouija isn’t one of those good ones; while it’s not a complete failure, and will appeal to the teen audience at which I assume it was aimed at. For me as a more seasoned horror fan I found nothing here to really entertain me. Now if I was 13 and not a big horror fan then I might have enjoyed Ouija; I might have even jumped or even been a little scared at times. However I’m a lot older than 13, I’ve been exposed to far too many horror films in my time for anything in this film to scare me, thrill me or even make me jump (not that I jump much anyway).
As I did say Ouija isn’t a complete failure it does do a few things right. Firstly it doesn’t rely on too much CGI, the apparitions look much better as a solid state entity rather than some wispy computer animated visual, I’m not a big fan of computer ghosts unless it’s done extremely well which isn’t often the case. Secondly it does manage to get in a few decent jumps, some fake and some “real” ones; but they work and I’m pretty sure that Mark on the RRS team would leave his seat once or twice, maybe even more (though he does jump very easily).
The deaths all look like accidents, which isn’t a bad thing really it just gives the film a Final Destination feel at times. However there are only a couple and they are quite timid in relation to the Final series deaths; a major restriction of the PG-13 rating. It did manage a 15 in the UK but it’s not really a 15, though it’s also not a 12A, and so the BBFC rating system falls apart again!
This is where I’ve run out of positives; actually no I have one more to do with the cast, Olivia Cooke is pretty good in the lead role, and there is also a nice turn from horror veteran Lin Shaye – now that really is the end of the positives.
While I’m on about the cast; the rest of the cast are ok, but nothing special, they are just generic teenagers with couple of them marked for a quick exit from the film. Yet they are not bad actors they are just not helped by a rather predictable and in truth a quite dull screenplay. Yes messing around with an Ouija board isn’t going to end well, we all know that, but try and make it scary or fun or even bloody; oh I forgot we are aiming for a PG-13 crowd, can’t do most of that! But a really good screenplay should have pushed the limits of that rating with a combination of scary, fun and a little blood. So as usual the studio plays it safe, aims for a mass market and we (the horror fans) end up with another lame mainstream horror film. At least the kids will have fun!
Another generic Halloween cash cow or something that little bit different? Love it or hate it? Or just totally indifferent? I didn’t expect much from OUIJA and that is probably how I felt after it, my low expectations had been met but there is one stand out part to this movie that sits really well with me. If you look at this and hope it’s going to be a cool scary movie then you are in for a shock, it isn’t that and doesn’t do anything that we haven’t ever seen before. Lacking in originality and plagiarising FINAL DESTINATION doesn’t make for a good mix but the occasional scares that did exist could at times be pretty effective and not all of them I saw coming.
What worked in this movie was the underlying tale of grief, we all know Ouija boards are stupid and not something to be played with but when Laines friend Debbie kills herself, Laine goes to any lengths to contact her friend to see why she died and to try and talk to her again. Now personally I’d have gone to see Sally Morgan or given Dereck Acorah a call but Debbie’s old Ouija board is found in the loft by Laine and she uses it as a tool of communicating with who she believes is her dead friend. Now that would be nice wouldn’t it?
Obviously things don’t work out that way and then we head into the final destination rip off territory but with a group of people you really don’t care about and just hope for a few grisly demises along the way. However this is where OUIJA loses me, you have hooked me in with a story now frighten me but it just doesn’t do it and it all feels so very safe.
As we get towards the end of the film it’s just generic CGI ghosts and at that point I had stopped caring, it felt like it was being dragged out and not even wheeling out Lin Shaye could redeem the ending from sheer mediocrity and disbelief.
OUIJA did have potential, imagine it in the hands of James Wan for example but as it stands now it’s a movie that didn’t work. It’s not to say it’s all bad and I thought Olivia Cooke did the best she could with a poor script and supporting cast. OUIJA is OK but it is also forgettable, it won’t last for long in your memory as we have seen it all before. It just confirms my belief that mainstream horror is in a bit of a lull of late and aside from the odd gem here and there we aren’t seeing the best examples of good horror movies making mainstream releases.
Why there are not more spirit board and seance biased movies is somewhat a mystery to me. Yes it’s all hokum and has been since Houdini started exposing mediums in the 19th century. But ouija boards and the beliefs of being able to contact the afterlife are nothing new and been popular for decades. So why are they not featured in more movies? It would make sense considering their notoriety.
Step up the aptly named Ouija.
Like a lot of horror films coming out recently, the cinematography and framing is top notch as lower level DPs are able to use better quality equipment. There are some really great images and lighting adding to the scenes. It is a shame there are a small handful of shots where by the way a room or scene is framed you know something will appear (in the space on the screen left for it).
In a film that looks this good its a pity that the acting and plot let the film down. The acting in the film really isn’t great, even an appearance by Lynn Shane is so poorly written the words she has to speak seem so disjointed they jar the scene. The fact she is to young for her character docent help either.
There are quite a few leaps of logic taken in the script that will make you question a characters sanity, (it’s somewhat of a spoiler so I will not mention here). At no point is there ANY voice of warning or reason in questioning what is happening, it just all happens and everyone goes along with it like rats following the pied piper to the river.
Unlike other low (by hollywood standard) budget horror movies released recently, this actually attempts to mix up just lining up poke in the eye shocks with trying to create some well made spooky moments and tension. Annoyingly it seems to give up trying to create a creepy atmosphere that it succeeds with early on in the third act and just resorts to a boogie man type character jumping out…. Alot.
Yes I saw a lot of jumps and scares coming, but some I didn’t and a handful caught me completely off guard. (I would of loved to of seen this with Mark).
Ouija is a bit of a mixed bag for me, I went in with somewhat low expectations after viewing a very dire traile. While they were exceeded, I wasn’t blown away either. It’s a an ok film with some nice ideas and some that miss the spot.
Don’t expect anything beyond mediocre.
Ouija is out in Cinemas now.
Released on home media 9th March.