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Movie review 'Ouija': A horror film without any horror

DECCAN CHRONICLE | KAUSHANI BANERJEE
Published Oct 31, 2014, 11:33 pm IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 5:40 pm IST
The biggest fright in Ouija is when you realise this is a high school movie
The biggest fright in Ouija is when you realise this is a high school movie
 The biggest fright in Ouija is when you realise this is a high school movie
 
Director: Stiles White
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Shelley Hennig, Darren Kagasoff, Bianca Santos, Douglas Smith, Ana Coto,
Rating: 1 and half stars

I have never used an Ouija board as a kid, but I gather the thrill of the experience corresponds with the fun gleaned from doing a planchette with your friends.

Laine (Olivia Cooke) and Debbie (Shelley Hennig) have been best friends with a fascination for communicating with the other side. On finding an old Ouija board and trying to reaching out to the dead, Debbie has been noticing some strange occurrences around her creaky, poorly lit home, and for reasons no one can fathom, commits suicide one night. Laine and Debbie’s other school friends, Sarah (Ana Coto), Trevor (Darren Kagasoff), Izzy (Bianca Santos) and Pete (Douglas Smith), are heartbroken and fail to understand why Debbie would have taken her own life, but they find the Ouija board and decide they should try to contact their deceased friend. Of course, strange things start to occur to them as well, and they have to find a way to stop this evil force before each of them dies.

 

The movie is based on a board game by Hasbro (a toy manufacturing company) and follows the concept of fear through anticipation, but it lacks two key ingredients to turn the concept into reality: any idea of how to sustain tension and anything worth being afraid of in the first place. ‘Ouija’ is a horror film without the horror. The movie features a collection of 20-something actors paid to look and act like high school students before dying a terrible death. Spirits are involved somehow, and the typical teenage slumber party staple is used as a means of communicating with those dead spirits. Clearly respected mediums Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Jennifer Love Hewitt (The Ghost Whisper) and Patricia Arquette (Stigmata) apparently were unavailable to moderate the discussions between the dead and the living.

Usual deal breakers like bad acting, dialogues and even special effects – all on display here – can be experienced here with a couple of decent jump scares to provide at least one frightening viewing.  Every few minutes, the audience is subject to mildly frightening shocks to keep you unbalanced and remind you this is supposed to be a horror movie, but nothing is truly shocking enough to be memorable. Film-maker Stiles White and co-writer Julie Snowden’s story never gets too complicated and dutifully delivers some reasons why the house is haunted, but it feels routine.

Instead of delivering horror in the murderous climax, the movie sells short by explaining the impending moments of doom and fear to the audience first.  Ghosts wait around to scare the characters, for example in a scene a shadow just appears behind a character; instead of having the shadow just jump at the person, white lingers on the image for several seconds and allows another character to point out that it’s right behind him before the attack begins.  Also, perhaps setting a large amount of action to happen in the daytime instead of just evening or night would do a better job of establishing the mood. Most of the scary moments coincide with numerous plot holes that rise and flow like the waves on a beach of stupidity.

‘Ouija’ won’t make you reconsider your thoughts on the afterlife or motivate you to keep a light on at bedtime. For most parts, ‘Ouija’ feels like a cheap thrill .You are likely to see people dressed up for Halloween who are scarier than the ghosts and spirits on display in ‘Ouija’.

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