No better way to market the toy you’re pushing than by saying it will kill you. Olivia Cooke, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith and Lin Shaye star in Ouija.

OuijaCast of Characters:
Laine Morris – Olivia Cooke
Trevor – Daren Kagasoff
Pete – Douglas Smith
Isabelle – Bianca Santos
Debbie Galardi – Shelley Hennig
Sarah Morris – Ana Coto
Paulina Zander – Lin Shaye

Director – Stiles White
Screenplay – Juliet Snowden & Stiles White
Producer – Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Jason Blum, Bennett Schneir & Brian Goldner
Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, and thematic material

After her friend Debbie Galardi (Shelley Hennig) commits suicide, Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke) is compelled to use an Ouija board to contact her from the dead. She convinces her sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and a few other friends from high school to join her, and are successful in contacting the dead. What they don’t realize is that they also opened up a portal to the netherworld that will unleash the hounds of hell and bring about their deepest, darkest demonic fears THAT THREATEN TO TAKE THEIR VERY MOTHER $%^&!@#$!!@%$#@ LIVES!!!!

Or something like that.

Now go buy the game.

I really had low expectations for Ouija. Having Michael Bay on as a producer who – not even mentioning his track record as a director – has one of the worst track records as a horror film producer (the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street) is a big, glaring red flag, and the first time I saw the trailer for this, I wondered if it was made by a group of film school dropouts. It didn’t look scary at all, and just kinda seemed like a push from Parker Brothers/Hasbro to sell more of their product, ironically by showing how horrifying it would be to have one.

I can’t wait for David Fincher’s Trouble and Peter Jackson’s Life, which tells the story of four players who, unfortunately, keep spinning either a one or a two, making the film’s run time a total of four hours.

Honestly, though, whether it was my low expectations or seriously asking myself just how much worse could it be over Monday’s The Ouija Experiment, this wasn’t that horrible. Not good, mind you, but also not dreadful enough to where I’m asking an Ouija board beforehand if I end up hanging myself halfway through the film.

Still, though, despite not being horrible, Ouija really doesn’t have much to offer. The opening sequence is quite effective, and the polished cinematography by David Emmerichs gives the film what little eeriness it does have. Yet after the 30-minute mark, the film falls victim to uninspired predictability. You see the jump scene beats coming, there’s the obligatory trip to the psych ward to visit one of the former occupants of the haunted house they’re living in (Lin Shaye providing some fun to a cliche role), and of course, the characters are essentially like bowling pins, where they’re set up only to be knocked down one by one.

Then there’s the climactic twist, which is underwhelming in that it’s been done before to the point of overkill. I’ll play nice and not spoil it (you’ll see it coming once things start kicking into gear toward it anyway), but the fact that it’s not clever is the least of its sins; it just doesn’t make any sense to the plot. My guess is since the writers figured their Ouija game premise is more fitting for a short film, they’d cram in a throwaway backstory somewhere around the halfway point to stretch out a thin premise into a feature-length film.

I get that this isn’t supposed to be highbrow cinema. This is a campfire style ghost story and nothing more, but, while the simplicity is certainly welcome, the scares just rely on the ole’ shut the door and – oh! Hey! Someone’s standing there technique.

Congrats on making me jump with a sound effect. I’ll be sure to credit the sound editing crew.

In spite of it lacking any scares, I can’t fault the performances. For this being a low-budget horror film featuring a young cast that’s required to say some dumb dialogue, they’re actually pretty good, which is something I didn’t expect. Sure, they’re all dumber than a box rocks, but you kinda just roll your eyes and accept it anyway, like when they ask who the spirit’s name is and it gives them just a letter D and they automatically assume it’s their friend Debbie (or… Danielle, Daniel, Dana, David, Doris, Dorothy, Damon, Dean, Doug, Daphne, Darlene, Darcey, Dawn, Dallas, Deva, Dora, Derek, Dominic, Dominique… Damien… The Devil!!!!). Olivia Cooke, who was one of the better aspects of the slightly better but similarly bland The Quiet Ones, gives another fine performance, as does Ana Coto as her punky, eyeliner-obsessed, younger sister.

Ouija features some fine performances, particularly from Olivia Cooke, and has a moderately effective creepy atmosphere that’s well shot. However, aside from a couple decent scares, the film really puts no effort into scaring its viewers and mostly feels routine, uneventful and far too tame for a film of its nature, devolving toward a climax that evokes unintentional laughter more than frights.

I give Ouija a C- (★★).

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