Movie Review: Ouija


A teenager’s irresponsible use of a Ouija board puts her friends in danger.


Stiles White, 2016

Teenagers Laine (Olivia Cooke) and Debbie (Shelley Hennig) have been best friends since childhood. As kids, they would often scare each other by playing with a Ouija board, repeating the rules before they would play: never play alone, never play on a graveyard, and something else I don’t remember. When Debbie finds the old game while cleaning out her house, she plays the game without following the rules. Unexplained things start happening around Debbie’s home soon after, and soon Laine is shocked by the news that Debbie has died. Laine housesits in Debbie’s home after the funeral. Desperate to talk to Debbie one more time, she brings out the Ouija board and has her friends play with her – but something has been unleashed. Something that isn’t Debbie, probably. It isn’t long before the teens start dying one by one, because they are teenagers and this is a horror movie.


Although to call it a “horror” movie is really stretching the definition. Sure, it was made to serve the horror genre, but it’s such a bland, aggressively unoriginal mash-up of the haunted house and picking off teenagers sub-genres that it is rendered utterly pointless. In some ways, horror movies are the purest form of filmmaking. The making of a good horror movie is entirely in the technical skills and abilities of the filmmakers. They need to know exactly how to structure a scene; how to build tension and when to break it; where to place the camera so that the scary thing is not revealed until the perfect moment. They need to know how to keep the pace moving without giving us too much until just the right time. One of the reasons that so many great filmmakers start out with horror movies is that the best horror films aren’t dependant on big budget, or having great actors, or slick plots. They’re reliant on good directors. They need those visceral, scary moments, and there’s nothing about this movie that rises above. There’s not one scare that’s actually scary, not a single one; the jump scares didn’t even make me jump, and I am usually susceptible to jump scares, if nothing else.

There are definitely elements that should work. In theory, the little girl ghost could be creepy, and for one or two moments she almost gets there. The concept behind the design is okay, but the CGI mess that they ended up with pushes past scary into comedy territory. Somehow, despite the plot being borderline non-existent, it’s still hard to follow. There’s nonsense about what constitutes a graveyard, and a “twist” about who the real bad guy is that’s about as unsurprising as it’s possible for a twist to be. There’s also very little emotional arc to the movie. It seems like they’re trying to say something about the connection between sisters, but the filmmakers never really commit to the concept. There’s nothing resembling an actual relationship between any of the characters, which is partly due to the execrable script and partly down to the lack of talent. The cast is a bland collection of pretty faces with nothing behind them. It’s a genuine shock to the system when Lin Shaye shows up for a hot second, because she does more with her two brief scenes than the rest of the cast can muster in the entire film. The only good thing I can say about Ouija is that it somehow inspired a much better prequel.

Ouija on IMDb


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