Synopsis: In Ouija, a group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.
Release Date: October 24, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): horror, thriller
Whether they’re referred to as spirit boards, talking boards, or Ouija boards, those flat things with the alphabet on them that come with a planchette should not be used alone. That’s where horror movies come from. Case in point – Ouija.
Ouija stars Olivia Cooke (The Signal, The Quiet Ones) as Laine Morris, a girl who, along with her best friend Debbie (Shelley Henning from “Days of our Lives”), enjoyed playing with a spirit board when she was little. Laine grew out of it, but Debbie kept on dabbling in the dark arts until one night she ended up dead of an apparent suicide. At Debbie’s memorial, Laine finds the Ouija board, and gathers together a group of friends in an effort to summon Debbie with the device. The seance seems to be successful, but when the kids who took part begin to die off in mysterious ways, Laine does a little background research. Along with her sister, Sarah (DisCONNECTED‘s Ana Coto), Laine figures out that the spirit that the group summoned is not Debbie, and it is out for blood. Laine and Sarah have to figure out how to send the entity back to where it came from before it harms anymore of their friends.
In a lot of ways, Ouija is a typical teenage horror movie. It relies on a lot of the standard tropes of the genre – mirrors, attics, dying flashlights, running water. The group of teens and their covert activities, as well as the absentee parents that allow them to happen, are fairly typical as well. In spite of all of the stereotypes and familiarity, Ouija is a lot of fun to watch. The screenplay was written by Stiles White and Juliet Snowden (the team who also wrote The Possession and Boogeyman), and it has the vibe of a classic ghost story thrown into the modern age. Stiles White also directed the movie (his directorial debut), and he’s got a great eye for what makes a horror movie work. The look and feel of the film makes up for the routine-ness of the storyline, and the whole thing ends up being a good, old fashioned spookfest.
One of the more fascinating observations about Ouija deals with its female characters. Olivia Cooke’s Laine is the latest in a long line of horror movie final girls who can’t rely on the men in their lives to help them, even if they wanted to. Laine’s father and boyfriend (played by Matthew Settle from “Gossip Girl” and Daren Kagasoff from “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” respectively) are of no help to her at all, either absent from the crisis or getting killed in the midst of it. The only people that Laine can count on are her sister, Sarah, and her best friend, Debbie. Add to that the fact that the antagonistic spirits are female themselves, and there’s a pretty convincing feminist reading somewhere within the subtext of Ouija.
There’s not much to Ouija as far as originality goes. It’s a low-maintenance as-the-crow-flies type of movie that is an easy watch. It’s almost better that way; it’s so effortless, that audiences will let down their guard…and that’s when Ouija will scare the pants off of them.
For such a brainless movie, Ouija is surprisingly scary. The film is set up like one long suspense scene with occasional payoffs, and even some of the payoffs are red herrings. After the summoning, the kids are in constant fear for their lives, and that leads to some cool Final Destination-like fake-outs that set the viewer up for the real scares. And the real scares are pretty terrifying. One of the gimmicks of the film is the fact that the kids can look through the window of the planchette and see whatever ghost that they have summoned. This little detail supplies some fun moments to the movie, as usually there is nothing there, but sometimes…there is. The combination of maddening suspense and scary specters makes Ouija much more frightening than its PG-13 rating would suggest.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Stiles White
- Screenwriter(s): Juliet SnowdenStiles White
- Cast: Olivia Cooke (Laine Morris)Ana Coto (Sarah Morris)Daren Kagasoff (Trevor) Bianca A. Santos (Isabelle)Douglas Smith (Pete)Shelley Hennig (Debbie Galardi)
- Editor(s): Ken Blackwell
- Cinematographer: David Emmerichs
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Anton Sanko
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA