Review: Ouija (2014)

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Director: Stiles White
Screenwriters: Stiles White & Juliet Snowden
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Lin Shaye & Shelley Hennig
Runtime: 89 min // Certificate: 15

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T1Jj1inE8M]

How has it come to this? A horror film – released on Halloween of all days – that runs for almost an hour and a half without one single, lonesome scare to be found within? What is going on? Is this what passes for horror these days?

There’s so little to say about Ouija that it almost beggars belief. It’s such an anodyne, interchangeable, non-descript film that I don’t know why they didn’t just try to pass it off as yet another sequel to Paranormal Activity and be done with it. It resorts to every tried, tired and tested horror cliché in the book without a hint of irony or creativity, and then rubs the audience’s face in a ghost story so tedious and uneventful that the scariest thing about it is that it ever got released in the first place. I mean seriously, who watched this and thought “yes, this’ll have them fleeing from the cinemas in abject terror?”

The plot, if you’re feeling generous enough to call it such, goes as follows. A young woman, Debbie (Hennig; Teen Wolf) appears to commit suicide after playing a Ouija board by herself. Her friends, desperate to say goodbye to Debbie, use the Ouija board to get in touch with her, only to raise the furious spirits of an insane woman and her daughter. Before long, Debbie’s friends start dying in bizarre and mysterious circumstances, and so it is left up to Laine (Cooke; The Quiet Ones) – Debbie’s best friend – and her sister Sarah (Coto; DisCONNECTED) to banish the spirits back to Hell.

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If you’ve seen one film like this you’ve seen them all, and Ouija doesn’t even pretend to offer anything new. This wouldn’t be such a colossal problem if it was remotely scary or entertaining, but it’s such a dull, monotonous slog that it’s impossible to even feign excitement or dread. The “cattle-prod” is cranked up to eleven as White attempts to inject even a modicum of energy into his film, but even this element falls flat as each and every “jump scare” is signposted about ten seconds before it actually happens. As a result, the film is far funnier (albeit unintentionally so) than it is scary, which is the kiss of death for any horror story.

Eye-rollingly stupid and banal to the point of analgesic, Ouija is everything I expected it to be and less. The performances are diabolical, the script is bunkum and the “scares” are laughable. An all-too-brief appearance by Lin Shaye (Insidious) as a patient in a psych ward offers some minor relief for a few moments, but for the most part Ouija is offensive, retrograde, sub-gothic garbage.

Fuck me, how have we let things get this bad…?

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