Synopsis: A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.
Director: Stiles White
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Shelley Hennig, Sierra Heuermann, Sunny May Allison, Lin Shaye
Review: "Ouija" first piqued my interest for obvious reasons... it's a horror flick first and foremost. But along with that, it's a horror movie centered around the ancient and mysterious oracle called "The Ouija Board." Everyone's heard of it, but only a few have dared to use one. An action which depending on who or what you believe... has had dire and sometimes fatal consequences afterwards. Hit up Google, and you can find all kinds of creepy stories about real life people who've foolishly fooled with one of these things. And the sinister and terrifying consequences which have come sometimes soon, and other times much later... afterwards. As creepy and steeped in mythology as the Ouija board is... it's hard to believe that this is just the first horror film about the evil oracle to be released post 80's! Horror fans will remember that the 80's brought us "Witchboard"... a movie where a Ouija board session brings the spirit of an evil magician upon an unsuspecting young woman.
But after that... it's hard to find a Mainstream horror film that centered itself around this mysterious device. That is until, "Ouija." This film comes from the team of Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. The Latter of which directed the pic. White and Snowden are no strangers to the horror genre. They were attached to the now kaput "Birds" Remake. Obviously... they've moved on. "Ouija" follows two best friends, Laine (Cooke), and Debbie (Hennig). The film opens with them both undertaking a Ouija board session as young girls. Later, we fast-forward to current day. And a night-time scene with teenaged Debbie hurling a Ouija board into a fireplace. An indication that something evil is afoot. Laine shows up to invite Debbie out but Debbie passes up the offer. A move she will quickly come to regret.
Who or what-ever... Debbie is afraid she's released from the board uses this very night to make its move, and this marks the last night Laine would ever see her friend alive. Now... Laine and the rest of Debbie's friends: Pete, Isabelle, and Trevor... aim to solve the mystery of whom or what killed Debbie, and why. "Ouija" works to the detriment but also the strength of the rules of the modern day slasher film. How do the teenagers usually end up dying? By being connected to the first person to die, or nosing around where they don't belong. In this films scenario, the board is used as the quote unquote "killer." You just know that the only way Olivia Cooke's character will ever know what happened to her friend that fateful night is by playing the Ouija board. A big mistake... but the film smartens this up a bit by weaving the "rules" of the game into the storyline.
Of all the written and unwritten rules about the Ouija board, the one that stands out as an underlying theme of its mythology and legend, as well in the context of this particular film, is that you should NEVER PLAY IT ALONE. So when Laine, her friends, and her younger sister Sarah (Coto) do a "session" together to get answers about Debbie's death... they unavoidedly link fates with the dark spirit who killed her. Ironically enough however, the movie also breaks its own rules in this very scene, while creating an entirely new one (atleast one I was unaware of, involving the Planchette). Without giving away spoilers, not only does one member of the group, but Laine herself as well, does something during the session that most Ouija experts warn users NOT TO DO. Although with what unfolds later on in the movie, it's hard to tell if these actions have any impact on what happens to the characters.
Because "Ouija" prefers to keep things simple with our mysterious evil spirit, which sets its sights on Laine, her friends, and her younger sister after they've used the board. As dumb as these character can be at times... Director Stiles White still manages to make "Ouija" work due to some slick and impressive cinematography. Which especially comes through well on this BluRay. This is a good looking film. A bit thin on character development, and overall character smarts, but the strong... "evil surrounds them" atmosphere manages to carry this film quite well. Even in those spots where you as a viewer get fed up with the characters constantly making the same mistakes over and over again. Even as the deaths of their ever-shrinking inner circle start to come fast and furious. Speaking of said demises, the kills here are not super bloody, sorry gore fans.
But you should know by now that films like this aren't in the business of going all "SAW" or "EVIL DEAD REDUX" on us. The kills however are chilling, sinister, and dark enough to really make you cringe at times. One in particular involving one of the films female characters, and "flossing gone wrong." After each death, there's an uncomfortable silence which works to enhance the atmosphere of the flick. Things pick up though on the intensity front when the film finally gets around to piecing together the darker mystery behind our "invisible evildoer". An interesting reveal, which is spurned on by genre veteran Lin Shaye making an appearance as an eccentric and institutionalized relative of a key character in the film. Which seems to be becoming her niche coming off of the still ongoing "Insidious" franchise.
The films conclusion is pretty awesome but the picture runs into some problems once Laine decides she knows "exactly" what will stop the group from being haunted. Playing once again on the old theme that teenagers make hasty decisions, while also digging up some tiresome Supernatural Horror Movie "plot twists." If you are a fan of this subgenre, and have seen past Asian Ghost Movie Remakes and the like, then you will probably figure out the "twist" before our resident Scooby Gang does. With that being said, some nice Special Effects, and a strong FINAL SCENE... manage to help "Ouija" recover, and wrap up nicely. If I were you, I'd give this one a Go if you're looking for some Spooky Saturday Night Entertainment.
THE GOOD: "Ouija" makes very good usage of its atmosphere. Creepy houses, Creepy basements, the board itself, dark spaces, and related things. The film always holds onto its sinister tone, and never strays into any cheesy territory. I appreciated the atmospheric quality of this particular home disc release. The final act is pretty strong, and the acting particularly by Olivia Cooke as Laine... wasn't too bad at all. I also liked how the ghost and its origins were expanded beyond what seemed to be headed towards becoming another "White Picket Fence hides dark secrets" storyline.
THE BAD: While the film avoids "cheesy"... it certainly did not have much going on upstairs. Or atleast its characters didn't. These kids were too easy of prey for the Ouija spirit. Although a situation like this in reality would be hard to manage, since in order to get answers about their friends death they "had to" play the board. But one has to question the wisdom of our heroine Laine dragging her younger sister into such a caper.