The first trailer for Ouija made me want to see it. It looked fun and creepy, and who hasn’t played with one of those spirit boards? I have fond memories of playing with a Ouija board with friends, and no one would ever admit to moving the piece.
Ouija opens with a teenage girl, Debbie, burning her Ouija board. Her best friend Laine comes over, invites her out to dinner with the gang, and Debbie refuses, saying she has some leftovers calling her name, and that they’ll talk in the morning. The next day, Laine is having breakfast with friends when she gets a text from her dad to come home. He tells her that Debbie killed herself the night before. Obviously the two friends never got to say goodbye. Thankfully, Debbie’s parents have to go out of town after the funeral, and nominate Laine to watch over the house. While house sitting, they find the Ouija board and make contact with Debbie to say goodbye. The problem is, though, that it just might not be Debbie they’re talking to.
Ouija excels at creating likable and fairly deep characters for a horror film. We learn just enough about all of them through videos on Debbie’s old camera. We have Debbie’s boyfriend, Laine and her boyfriend, Laine’s sister, and a random mutual friend. We know enough to care about them, but when the bodies start to pile up, it seems like the cast forgot that they had to care about each other because there is no emotion shown as they find out X, Y and Z have kicked the bucket. Not a single tear is shed during or after everything. I’m going to blame the weak script on this.
Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, the “amazing” duo that brought us such classics as Knowing and Boogeyman, write the script for Ouija. Had I known this going in, I might have avoided seeing it in theatres. However, one half of this writing duo, White, is also the director, and along with the characters being likable and realistic, he’s also able to deliver a nicely shot film, especially for a first-time director. The tension builds nicely, and the first time the board is used and they know something is wrong actually gave me chills. Not only that, but the film made me jump three times, and none of them were loud noise moments; they were legit jump scares without a fake noise causing it.
For every positive about Ouija, though, there is also a negative. Yes, the characters feel real and have depth to them, but then this is just forgotten as the film progresses. The creepy factor is there, but then there are Final Destination moments that are laughable, and the viewer definitely feels the “PG-13” rating. The twists are fun, but predictable, and, at times, it is a little too similar to The Ring for my liking.
At the end of the day I’m completely torn on Ouija. It hits on a lot of marks, but then misses on an equal amount. It somehow exists in that weird, mediocre area where I want to say go see it, but I know I can’t do that because its flaws are so apparent and in your face. The sad truth is that if Ouija had a different script attached to it, it could have been fantastic because White is able to deliver a creepy and atmospheric horror film that delivered the the most chills since The Conjuring. Unfortunately, in no way, shape, or form is this film in the same league as The Conjuring, though. If you’re hard pressed for a horror film this Halloween season, due to the lack of other theatrical alternatives, Ouija could fit the bill. However, there are plenty of better thrills that can be had on the Video on Demand market (like Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort, for example).