Oujia (**1/2): You made her play the game and now she’s dead

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Ouija – 2014

Director Stiles White
Starring Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos, Lin Shaye, Shelley Hennig
Screenplay Juliet Snowden and White

For an actress that has been in so many Farrelly Brothers films, Lin Shaye is something of a staple in horror. In fact, she is to horror what Leslie Nielsen was to comedy. In this film, she plays the old sister in the nuthouse. She’s okay, but really, her role could have been played by just about any woman in her 60’s. She must work for cheap. Lord knows the filmmakers did not waste a dime on the rest of the cast.

Ouija is the kind of film one gets these days for the rating of PG-13. There are a few tense moments, almost no gore, and plenty of teenagers to sacrifice. Based on a board game. That’s right. Hasbro profits from this film. It has the amount of thrills and chills that are safely allowed in a boardroom screening. This is not to say it is a bad film. For the moments one is engaged in the film, there is a sense of anticipation. When will the scary old woman show herself? When will her “victims” speak out against her? When will these friends see their dead friend again?

Lest I get ahead of myself, the plot in a thumbnail sketch: Laine Morris (Cooke) has recently lost her friend Debbie (Hennig) to an apparent suicide. Any film that starts off with a suicide at the beginning is almost never a suicide – except for maybe Stephen King’s It – so for now, lets just say the skepticism is limited to Laine and the audience. The ensuing funeral finds Debbie’s parents saying they can’t stay in the house and, strangely, asking Laine if she would mind. Of course not. Her best friend only just died beneath the chandelier center piece. Laine should have no problem getting the mail and spend some quality time hanging out with her…what is this? A Ouija board? It’s not the exact one that they used to play with Debbie as a child with no parents around. This one is creepier and looks like it’s been well used. And burned maybe. And then recreated. But I digress.

She gets the idea to have her friends over to Debbie’s conveniently empty house for a session with said board. Of course they all agree to this, just this once. Then once again. And on and on until they start getting knocked off one by one. Is any of this more scary than it is predictable? There are some nice moments, but as many bland ones to balance it out. This is not as much a story as it is a formula, right down to the religious Hispanic Grandma who gives her granddaughters’ advice on how to end this thing.

As many times as we have seen this story, it is nice to see Olivia Cooke in something outside of the excellent Bates Motel. She is good in that show, and she is the right fit here. Cooke is pretty, but not so pretty that you think she would not survive. The rest of the teens look like models and pageant contestants, if you know what I mean.

Stiles White is primarily known for his work with Stan Winston studio on special effects. His work here is quick enough to be somewhat effective, but also with some moments that look like the real thing. His work is nothing if not competent. There is absolutely nothing here that screams out loud that this is a vantage point one must see again. Snowden has written one other film that could be considered good (The Possession) and a few others that are the same formula we see here.

This film made a nice profit (20x the budget). There is definitely another one on the way, even if they are not in a hurry to do so. Why should they hurry? It’s not like Hasbro is going to stop selling this board game soon.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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