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Movie Reviews: Ouija board? More like Ouija bored!

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This is not a piece of advice that applies to EVERY situation! The folly of this group of youths is that these kids don’t learn to leave things well enough alone.

Debby is a young woman with an unhealthy fascination for her Ouija board, so much so it’s made her distant from her friends. Even her BFF, Laine, gets a bit of the cold shoulder, but is assured by Debby that all is well. That appears not to be the case as Debby dies under mysterious circumstances.

To everyone else it appears to be a tragic suicide (since she seems to have hung herself in her home), but her friends are not convinced she would have taken her own life. Racked with grief and in search of answers; they determine there is only one thing they can do.

They decide to go to Debby’s house, which Debby’s mom has conveniently vacated as part of her grieving process, and use Debby’s Ouija board in an attempt to contact her “on the other side”. Why not, I mean…what could possibly go wrong? (rolls eyes) Well they make contact with…someone or something they think is Debby.

They ask questions in hopes of learning the true circumstances surrounding Debby’s untimely demise.. In the end the most significant utterance from the “spirit” is “hi friend”…wow, how… banal.  They start getting creeped out when over the next couple of days they each begin to see the message “hi friend ” appearing unexpectedly.

First it’s scribbled in chalk on a wall, then it’s written in condensation on a car window, then it’s carved into the top of a desk, and finally it types itself on Laine’s laptop.

Uh oh, a spirit crossed over from the other side. Is it REALLY Debby? What do we do now? They decide to use the Ouija board…AGAIN! That’s great you’ve poked the bear, now you’re going to open its damned cage and LET IT OUT! As you would probably guess things start to get progressively worse.

As the groups numbers dwindle, they become more desperate to thwart this malevolent force they’ve awakened.

This group of young actors and actresses consisting of: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca Santos,  and Shelley Hennig, gave performances that were weak, inconsistent and forgettable..

The only people in the cast I recognized were Olivia Cooke and Lin Shaye. Cooke, who plays Laine, is most well-known for her role as Emma Decody on the A&E series Bates Motel. Shaye is a horror veteran who recently appeared in Insidious and Insidious 2.

In fact, Shaye’s performance was the only one that had any true merit.

Cooke’s performance didn’t have the necessary strength for a lead protagonist, especially since most of the supporting cast was less than supportive. Scenes were  either over-acted or under-acted, and I didn’t find any connection or reason to care about their collective fate.

Ouija marks Stiles White’s directorial debut, and if this is an indication of his directing talent, it may be his LAST time directing too.

White utilized far too many cheap scares, and most of them were badly timed and ineffective. Jump scares should be easy to pull off and it’s definitely a bad sign if the director can’t even time THEM properly…that’s WHY they’re called CHEAP scares.

Without creating any enduring  feelings of  anxiety, tension, and terror, the cheap scares become predictable and thus fail to be effective. Build fear gradually throughout the movie, don’t just randomly insert it like a golden ticket in a Wonka bar and expect the fear to take hold.

Perhaps White was being too ambitious his first time out, taking on both writing AND directing duties on this movie. White co-wrote Ouija with Juliet Snowden, with whom he also collaborated on The Possession, Knowing, and Boogeyman.

Their previous efforts could have served as a warning of the quality (or lack there of) to expect. To say that the story was uninspired and predictable is still being too kind. I did like some elements of the plot…or at least I did when I first saw them in The Ring back in 2002.

Maybe they felt The Ring was far enough removed and that nobody would notice similarities.

At least first time cinematographer, David Emmerichs,  was able to make the movie look pretty good. Emmerichs has a well established career in camera operation, so he has some acumen to bring to this role.

Although I did start wondering if it was a plan to over utilize the slow creeping wide-angle shots or if somebody simply forgot to lock down the camera dolly. While it can be an effective way to create tension in horror movies, just maybe try not to use that shot TOO often.

Otherwise, he did a very respectable job of making this rather poorly constructed narrative, look good on the big screen.

With Halloween so near I guess I can understand how Ouija managed to win the weekend away from John Wick, since audiences crave their requisite cinematic Halloween scares. Unfortunately, the only real scare this movie offers is the possibility of a sequel. Even movies that are mediocre to bad can and will sometimes get the sequel treatment.

On a final note folks, it’s pronounced “wee-juh” NOT “wee-gee”. Say it right, because you sound like an idiot when you don’t.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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