Film Review “Ouija”

Ouija_2014_posterStarring: Olivia Cooke and Ana Coto
Directed by: Stiles White
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 29 mins

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Ouija” should really be pronounced “gee-why?” For a movie based on a board game you can’t expect too much. However, I did expect a little more than what I received.

A very simple story. Teen-age kids play with a spirit board and awaken the spirits of beings trapped within a house. Not much else to know. From the start this film suffers from the constraints of dealing with characters sitting around a table playing a board game. That in itself does not make for thrilling cinema. And being that this is in the age of cell-phones and cameras on computers, the audience must also suffer the overused contrivance of having to watch video footage from those devices in order to uncover clues as to how the spirits were summoned as well as how to defeat them.

The film’s weight is solely carried by the main character of Laine Morris, played by Olivia Cooke. Her performance is the most believable in the entire film. She seemed to be the only person, as far as the younger cast is concerned, to put their all into the story. I’ve not seen her in anything else, and while she was portraying a teen-ager she seemed to be wise beyond her years. I thought she was much better than the material she was given to work with. There was nothing in this film that I hadn’t seen before. The older-style Victorian home with a dark past, the evil spirits appearing in reflections, and even the appearance of the spirits themselves. It’s as if all movies of this sort have the same character design; the pale face with dark eyes and a mouth that opens far too wide when they release a ghastly scream.

It also takes way too long for anything to happen. And the piecing together of the Ouija board being the source of the disturbance was keyed in upon much too easily. It felt unnecessary that when one of the characters is killed, the kill is always done in a way that it could be viewed as a suicide. For anyone who knows story structure, you can see the scares and deaths coming long before they happen. The set-up is too obvious, so the pay-off is easy to predict.

Following the normal genre trope of writing out the parents in the story, I was truly disappointed in this gimmick. Laine’s father, listed on IMDB simply as Mr. Morris, was played by Matthew Settle, an actor I’ve always liked since his work in “Band of Brothers.” The film also features a small cameo by Robyn Lively from “Teen Witch.” I would have liked to see these two utilized a lot more.

Moving into the third act we are introduced to a previous inhabitant of the house in which the spirit board was found, wonderfully portrayed by Lin Shaye. While she is always great, at this point it’s too little too late. I do think the filmmakers did a passable job at coming up with a story to base around a board game. That being said, it’s definitely not worth seeing in theatres and will not be a horror film that will stand the test of time. It could have been much better. But, then again, it could have been much worse.

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