OUIJA is bad, and it should feel bad

Ouija (dir. Stiles White)
I have never once in my life been accused of being a ray of sunshine. But even with my often sour disposition, I always try to find the good in any film. Heck, I even enjoyed THE MONKEY’S PAW for what it was. I do this because I love film and I especially love horror film. Even when all of the elements of success are not there, I try to pull out what does work and convey what clearly had good intention. This is why films like OUIJA don’t only disappoint me, they make me angry.
OUIJA is the kind of film which lacks passion, inspiration, and any shred of respect for the audience. It is exactly the crap that non-genre fans cite when they claim that there are no good horror films anymore, and it angers me that Hollywood studios give these mundanes the evidence to support that assertion.
There are plenty of spoilers below. I warn you as a courtesy, but a) I would be shocked if you are planning on seeing this film, and b) the predictable plot means that spoilers don’t actually spoil the film.
First of all, the film was funded by Hasbro Studios and the beginning of it comes across like a commercial for the board game. The young girls playing with the Ouija board spend the first scene explaining the rules of the board, just as if they are reading the game instructions on the back of the box. One character even plainly states later in the film, “C’mon guys, it’s sold in toy store,” thus pointing us directly towards the retail location of the board, in case there is any confusion. I’m actually surprised that there was not a QR code on the screen that lets the audience funnel money directly into the pockets of the toymaker turned horrible movie producer.

Looking past the sponsors (film funding is a complicated issue, and I can understand that tie-ins can be necessary) the film itself barely makes sense. Characters act illogically and often say one thing but do another. My most noted issues are:

  • Laine’s (Olivia Cooke, who can actually act, though avoids doing so in this film) boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) refers to her father as overbearing as they try to formulate a plan to get away for a weekend together. Within a week her father flies away on business, and it is made clear that his absence is a regular occurrence in the house. Being simultaneously an absentee father and helicopter parent is not possible.
  • Trevor and Laine have zero chemistry on screen. They are called “the perfect couple” by a friend, but we never even see them hold hands, or even each other’s gaze for that matter.
  • After the mysterious suicide of Laine’s best friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig), Debbie’s family leaves town for an undetermined amount of time. The family leaves Laine in charge of watering the plants in the very house where Debbie committed suicide. This conveniently eliminates all of the adults from the film, but makes no logical sense whatsoever.
  • When Laine starts investigating Debbie’s suicide she asks Debbie’s boyfriend if he noticed anything strange in Debbie just before her death. Her boyfriend brushes off the question and makes it seem like it is odd to be asked such a question. This is the boy whose girlfriend committed suicide with zero warning signs. Asking how Debbie was leading up to her death is a completely normal thing to do, and even a boyfriend stuck in denial would know that.

 

I could look past these distracting issues if there was anything else redeeming in the film, but there really is nothing. The plot barely limps along down a completely uninspired path. The film takes itself way too seriously, and yet is horribly boring for long stretches of time.
The special effects, when they finally show up, are passable. The CGI is obvious, but there are a couple decent practical effects mixed in. The jump scares were effective on the audience and briefly interrupted their unintended laughter.
The best parts of the film are the small part given to Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) and a cameo by Robyn Lively (the TEEN WITCH herself). Both of these actresses were a welcome sight in the dreariness of Ouija.
Many bad horror films leave me disappointed. I want to be able to champion them because I can see the glimmer of the filmmaker’s love of horror somewhere in the bad effects and lazy storytelling. But Ouija left me angry. I’m angry that this soulless film gets lumped into my beloved genre, and I’m angry that it is one of the only horror films in theaters this Halloween.We deserve better.

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Cleveland (via Boston) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, Cinematic Essential, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Bitch Flicks, and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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  1. See the new BLAIR WITCH for free before it is released! – Film Thrills

    […] Mike Flanagan’s attachment to the OUIJA prequel has meant that I am suddenly interested in it! I found the first film personally insulting to horror fans, but Flanagan is one of the best working horror directors […]

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