Director: Stiles White
Writers: Juliette Snowden, Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos
What kid growing up in the 90’s didn’t play, or at least hear about, Hasbro’s Ouija board game? I played a handful of times. While I personally never witnessed anything remotely unsettling, I had friends who told very different tales. Stories of communicating with deceased relatives, flickering lights, moving chairs, loud bumps, sudden temperature changes. A few even swore upon sacred objects and the graves of their mothers that they saw apparitions. For many, it’s just a harmless parlor game made of cardboard and plastic. For others it is like Morse code for all kinds of devilry. Regardless of which camp you might fall into, this movie is one that you can enjoy.
I went into this film virtually blind of its existence. I halfway watched a trailer on YouTube with my wife and we thought it looked cool, so we went. We’re suckers for films with a paranormal/ghost/possession bent, and it’s our last week before our first child arrives. Ouija delivered exactly what we wanted.
The opening sequence drew me in for 2 reasons. First, it set a foreboding tone for the rest of the film. Second, it is just a glimpse into what the film has to offer. Ouija doesn’t fully lay all of its cards on the table until almost halfway in. You could call it a slow-burner, but that didn’t bother me. Too many films go right for the viewer’s jugular much too soon. That kind of tactic is mostly shock and is frequently deployed to make up for lack of a sound plot. By the time the main conflict is introduced, the film dishes out plenty of scares.
The cinematography and music deserve a mention. Darkness and shadows are used in a way that adds a tangible dread to the atmosphere. The film invites the reader to be very present in the Ouija scenes themselves. It was easy for me as a viewer to imagine myself sitting at the table with the characters. Anton Sanko’s film score brought to mind Joseph Bishara (Insidious) with his use of discordant strings.
While the acting isn’t going to be winning any Oscars, none of the performances are wretched. My biggest gripe with this film was the characters themselves. They’re not horribly written and their dialogue flows; however, they came off rather lifeless and flat. Nothing about them is particularly memorable. Speaking of Insidious, genre fans will recognize a familiar face from that franchise. I wasn’t expecting to see this person, but when I did I applauded. This character was by far the most memorable in the whole film.
Ouija most definitely succeeds with the “jump” scares, which is what I wanted from a film like this. What it lacks in character development, it makes up for in mood and fright. I’m sure gorehounds and horror elitists will pass on it, and that’s OK. My wife and I left the cinema happy and felt our money was well spent. Ouija would be a fun film to see in a group, especially a group of teenagers. Parents need not be terribly concerned about the film’s content; language is minimal, if present at all. Given the subject matter, the violence is appropriate without being gruesome. There is no sexuality or nudity. I recommend Ouija for those looking for a solid ghost story that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 7.5.
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