Ouija, Hasbro’s first venture into horror, has received a lot of flak from critics and moviegoers since its Halloween opening. And while the film was short on a lot of aspects, I, for one, thought it was a passable for a film working with only a $5 million budget.
Debbie (Olivia Cooke) and Lanie (Shelley Hennig) are best friends who have known each other since childhood. Their relationship is such that Lanie is closer to Debbie than she is with her sister Sarah, who has started acting up since their mother left them. When Debbie suddenly “commits suicide,” Lanie asks her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), Debbie’s boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith), their friend Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos) and Sarah (Ana Coto) to call on Debbie’s spirit via Ouija board, to properly say goodbye. Unknown to them, Debbie was being haunted by a malicious spirit she unleashed using the same board before she died. Now, their lives are in danger as they are being stalked by the spirit that killed their friend.
At first glance, Ouija looked like it had a good recipe for horror. It was like the filmmakers had a checklist for everything that should be done in a ghost movie involving a bunch of good looking teens, much like the popular 90s horror films. Up to a certain extent, it held true to its potential. For one, the cast was familiar and appealing to most teens as they have starred/guested in television series like Bates Motel, The Secret Life of an American Teenager, and Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. The film also learned from other films in the same genre in terms of establishing a spooky atmosphere (enter ominous music and prolonged silences). Credit must also be given to the filmmakers for the excellent cinematography and its execution of some shocks in the most opportune moments. I felt like it was a CW production fused with 90s slasher (but with ghosts). It employed the same triggers, the same cues — all tried and tested and all bankable so, there was real potential to this movie.
However, it suffered greatly from its similarity with other films in the genre that used the same methods but did it better. With the slew of movies in the same vein (Haunt, Sinister, The Conjuring), its no surprise that viewers were looking for more when anything and everything has been done in previous films. It was obvious that the team tried to make up for the unremarkable story through sound execution but more than anything, it resulted in a lot of boring drawn out scenes that the film could have cut short. Even the death scenes seemed lacking in momentum.
All in all, Ouija’s downfall was its lack of originality and limiting story. It was guilty of having a lot of shortcomings but it wasn’t horrible. I’ve seen a lot worse, for sure. But it was mediocre. The problem with Ouija was that it was too generic in its horror by numbers approach. There was nothing new that the film had to offer and it seemed predictable at best and lengthy set ups did not help the movie’s case. With its young cast, it should have tried to be more creative and different and utilized its assets more.