Ouija fails to frighten, break the mold

Ouija, which opened in theaters today, is a run-of-the-mill horror film that gets bogged down in all of the classic tropes and tricks that you’ve either come to love or detest.

Early in the film Debbie (Shelley Henig) is found hanging from her ceiling, and everyone writes it off as a suicide. Her best friend, Laine (Olivia Cooke) can’t figure out why she would do such a thing, until she discovers an Ouija board in Debbie’s closet.

As little girls, they played with a similar board and were told never to play alone. So Laine gathers her sister Sarah (Ana Coto), her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), her friend Isabelle (Bianca Santos), and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Douglas Smith). When the gang plays with the Ouija board in Debbie’s house, they’re contacted by an unknown spirit within the house that begins to haunt each of them separately.


Horror flick Ouija centers around the mystical board that has been used for centuries to talk to the dead. |Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The film is certainly visually appealing. The shots are fairly crisp and the film proceeds quickly, which is always a bonus. The sound quality is great, as every shriek and violin screech echoes for quite some time. If you love startling and disturbing imagery, you’re sure to be pleased by some of the makeup efforts in the film, as they’re quite unsettling.

However, with jump scares aplenty, there’s nothing else in this film to genuinely scare — you’ll probably end up rolling your eyes by the end of the film. The acting is atrocious, the writing is dismal, and nothing ever feels real.

The tropes include but are not limited to dolls, scary mothers, scary twins, possession, head tilting, careless teenagers, convenient storytelling, flickering lights, spirits and Grade-A problem solving. You can’t forget the ominous chanting and quick explanation of the spirit realm. Everything is something that you’ve seen before, save for the Ouija board. I was checking items off the horror genre cliche list as this film blew through trope after trope.

All reasoning goes out the window when dire situations occur, and the characters in Ouija are no exception. Led by an emotionless Laine, the band of misfits try to get themselves killed. The actors do a poor job of  conveying that they care about anything that’s happening in the film. Their line delivery is flat, their inflections are all way off, and they keep stone-like facial expressions that keep us from understanding how they really feel.

The incorporation of the Ouija board is something new and it could have been a scary prop. Instead, we don’t get too deep into why Laine and Debie played with a Ouija board in the first place. There’s no background for any of these characters and their motivations are tossed out of the window. Apparently, it only takes a few hours to grieve the death of a loved one and then you’re super perky the next day as if nothing happened. The issues that the characters face are all quickly dealt with, all thanks to the writers, who clearly put a lot of effort into being original.

Ouija is just another throwaway horror film that leaves you neither scared nor satisfied when the lights come back up to rescue you from the darkness. The film’s atmosphere isn’t even a bit creepy, which makes it harder for anyone to get the slightest bit scared. This film is a mockery of true horror films, as its simple plot and overuse of jump scares classifies it as cheap horror. It’s certainly going to scare the faint of heart, but it could have been a lot better.

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