As promised, here’s the review for the absolute worst horror film I saw last year. Enjoy, because I certainly didn’t, and there aren’t enough expletives in existence to truly write the review that would make me feel better about the experience.
Let’s just start off by calling a dud a dud, and OUIJA is one hell of an awful dud. I went in with low expectations, but I never imagined that it wouldn’t even meet a bar lowered so far. So why is this? The film suffers from many problems. So let’s discuss…er…I guess I’ll just lay them out and you can agree or disagree. Not really a discussion, I guess.
Usually when talking about a mess of a film I try to start with the positive, and there is a sliver of positive that came from viewing this film, but it’s part of a larger issue that I’d rather cover at the end. So what didn’t work?
The worst thing about OUIJA, is that I’m pretty sure that somewhere in between the filmmaking and editing process, the filmmakers just gave up. Here’s how I know this. At the beginning of the film, in a flashback, a character tells another the rules for playing with an Ouija board, and there are only two: 1. Never play alone. And 2. Always say goodbye when you are finished with a session. Well, somewhere in that 10-15 years the film skips to get to the present, something went wonky because when a character tells others the rules for playing with an Ouija board, there is a mysterious NEW rule that enters at number 1: Never play in a cemetery.
So of course, all these rules have to be broken, and the first set of two rules are broken almost the instant the film finishes the flashback at the beginning. Both original rules are broken several times throughout the film. But the new #1 rule about playing in a cemetery? Never broken. Or is it? The cool kids try contacting their dead friend by playing the game in her former living room. Later in the film, when our final girl is chatting with a sister of the dead girl in the house (long story. Not interesting, but long), the sister (played by Lin Shaye of INSIDIOUS fame) asks her if she played with the Ouija board in a cemetery, to which the final girl agrees. Wait! Hold up! Ceme-what? That scene NEVER HAPPENED in the movie, it isn’t even hinted at happening off screen or anything. It just plain NEVER HAPPENS. My theory is that it originally happened in the script, but then the scene got cut, or the scene was re-written to take place in the house and not a cemetery, but the lines that refer to it were not only filmed, they were left in the finished product. Someone, somewhere in the credits of OUIJA, just didn’t give a shit.
There’s a big problem with the film’s opening sequence as well. The opening sequence of a horror film, especially a cookie-cutter one like OUIJA, should do the following: Introduce the fearful item or character in the film (in this case, a Ouija board, but for example, in SCREAM, it’s the killer), build up tension through dread (again, in SCREAM, it was a horror movie quiz and then a cat and mouse game), at the peak of tension it should introduce mortal dread, and then finally we get the payoff of the death of the opening sequence character in a way that matches the height of the scene’s tension (another excellent example of this is Dario Argento’s masterpiece, SUSPIRIA). The opening sequence should be like a shorter self-contained horror film.
The opening sequence of OUIJA is one boring moment after another. It’s slow, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but when it’s being slow because it isn’t going anywhere IS a problem. OUIJA’s first scene builds no tension, there is no dread. It’s a girl wandering around her house, scared for reasons only known to her and not the audience, and the climax? Hung from a chandelier by Christmas lights. Even the integrity of the death is in question because I’m pretty damn sure a small cord of Christmas lights would have snapped under her weight. The opening sequence is just a steaming pile of crap, and it’s a good preview of what the rest of the movie is going to be: Absolutely terrible.
As for the rest of the film, it’s filled with cheap and unimaginative scares. The usual “Who’s moving the eye!” cries from the Ouija board group (which at least they got the name of the eye, planchette, correct. So someone did a minimal amount of homework}, even the twist ending from RINGU (and its remake, THE RING) is re-hashed in this film. All leading up to a climax that is very unsatisfying.
Once I had given up on this film completely, which was somewhere about 30 minutes in, I stopped watching for content, and started paying attention to the presentation, the shots, the sound design, how the film was presented to the audience. On this level, a technical level, the film succeeds minimally. Some very interesting compositions in it, and good—almost annoyingly placed—zingers in the sound design does its best to scare you when the visual on screen is very much not scary. I guess, had I done my homework before seeing it, this would have come as no surprise as the film is directed and written by the writing team behind the first BOOYGEMAN film, which was a stinker too, but was expertly shot, especially in the last third of the film.
In the end, there’s something here for aspiring DPs, some great shots, but for your regular audience member that wants a good movie, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere. If you like Ouija board themed movies, there was a low budget film from 2014 called THE OUIJA EXPERIMENTS that is actually pretty good, until the last 15 minutes as it doesn’t finish well. Oh, and OUIJA’s got Michael Bay’s name on it. Coincidence?