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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Movie Review: ‘Ouija’

COYOTECHRONICLE.COM Douglas Smith, Shelley Hennig and Olivia Cooke’s decision to play Ouija leads to terrible consequences.


Following in the footsteps of “Clue” and “Battleship,” Hasbro has released yet another board-game inspired movie, called “Ouija,” in collaboration with production companies Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions, as well as Universal Pictures. The movie came out just in time for the horror movie season of Halloween.

“Ouija” begins when a teenage girl named Debbie (Shelley Hennig) sets fire to a ouija board while home alone one night. Her best friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) comes over and attempts to either bring Debbie to a basketball game or stay in there and keep her friend company. Debbie resists, saying that she wants time to herself and Laine leaves. When Debbie goes back inside the house, she is terrified to find that the ouija board is suddenly completely intact on her bed instead of in the fire. With a dramatic camera flash, Debbie’s corpse is next seen hanging dead from the home’s chandelier.

Debbie’s parents and doctors rule her death to be a suicide, but Laine finds the ouija board in her room and grows suspicious of something different, particularly since she and the rest of her friends had observed Debbie acting strangely for the previous few weeks. Therefore, this group of friends decide to gather in Debbie’s home to play with her ouija board, hoping to communicate with Debbie. Instead, they unknowingly violate one of the central rules of the ouija game – never to play in a graveyard. They do not know that Debbie’s home was haunted by its past owners. Thinking they have made contact with Debbie, the group of friends instead connect with the spirits of these previous owners, and are then haunted in the same manner as Debbie. The resulting quest centers on their efforts to kill these ghosts before they meet the same fate as Debbie.

The film revolves around a modern group of attractive high school students, who live in clean, large houses with seemingly nonexistent parents. In this sense, it differs from many other horror movies that have somber and spooky locations and visuals. The film did not have a large budget, so the actors are all young and generally inexperienced on the big screen.

The protagonist Laine (Cooke) delivers a very strong performance as both a shocked best friend and the leader of the group, bravely using the ouija board and fighting the evil spirits. Another interesting character is Paulina Zander (Lin Shaye), the lone living member of the family that haunts the teenagers. Zander makes a brief, but exciting appearance when Laine visits her in a mental hospital. However, none of the other supporting characters (including Darren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Ana Coto and Bianca A. Sotos) have particularly interesting roles in the plot, and none of their acting is particularly impressive. Cooke is a clear standout in this respect.

It comes as no surprise that a film based on the concept of communicating with the dead through a board game would be scary, but “Ouija” is only rated PG-13, so it has slightly less gore than many other horror films. I found this aspect refreshing, as the pop-out scenes and scary moments were not quite as constant or over the top as in some other similar movies. Furthermore, they actually made sense within the script of the movie, which is not always the case.

On the other hand, the ouija board séance scenes do not make the best use of special effects and visuals to represent communication with the dead. Only once do the characters actually see the ghosts that haunt them; the rest of the time, the only hint of something supernatural is moving furniture or invisible attacks, which is disappointing to the audience. Nevertheless, a particularly memorable visual occurs when several characters attempting to floss their teeth suddenly find their lips sewn shut by the spirits.

The plot of the movie is both easy to follow and generally logical in its progression, and the script isn’t too drawn out. However, I felt that the movie never climaxed, as it ended in just 83 minutes with a predictable resolution. Therefore, while I generally enjoyed the film, it also left me feeling rather unsatisfied and surprised when it ended.

Like most horror movies, “Ouija” offers little intellectual substance and a limited degree of entertainment. The premises of solving a death, using a ouija board and a haunted house are not particularly creative. However, “Ouija” offers plenty of entertainment in terms of the fear factor, yet also does not leave audiences disturbed or disgusted by extreme gore or violence. Most importantly, the likable characters, led by Cooke’s strong performance, make “Ouija” stronger than many other horror movies, including its current competitor in this genre, “Annabelle.” It is clearly marketed towards an audience that enjoys horror movies, and it is generally successful within this genre.

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