When her best friend Debbie apparently commits suicide, Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke) goes about investigating the mysterious death. She uncovers an old Ouija board and foolishly attempts to contact the other side for answers. But what answers back isn’t Debbie but something sinister and malevolent.
Horror is a polarizing genre that’s hard to get right. This year we have been fortunate enough to have some gems pop up like Deliver Us From Evil, As Above, So Below and The Babadook. Ouija is more similar to Annabelle, in that it’s a big studio movie made for as broad an audience as possible, with routine scares uniformly scattered throughout.
If you approach it in the right way, Ouija does entertain. It’s most effective for a young teen audience (who it’s clearly marketed at) and is sure to do good business come Halloween. For everyone else, it’s a predictable yarn with some scares that land, but Ouija offers nothing new or inventive. It does do the basics right though and the cast do try.
Olivia Cooke is fast becoming a new scream queen after her roles in The Quiet Ones, The Signal and Bates Motel. She handles the lead well and is always watchable. Daren Kagasoff plays her boyfriend and doesn’t have much to do. The same can be said of Bianca Santos who, like Kagasoff, seems to be hired as the token eye candy for the teen market. Ana Coto fares the best as Sarah, Laine’s little sister. It’s a small role but Coto brings something different to the table and does very well.
Shelley Hennig doesn’t have a lot of screen-time but opens the film with a good initial scare. Douglas Smith is your token weird teen and Gossip Girl’s Matthew Settle is utterly wasted as Laine and Sarah’s father. Ever wondered what happened to Ralph Macchio’s love interest in The Karate Kid Part III? I thought you did… she’s now playing ‘the mom’ in movies and can be seen in a small role here. But horror legend Lin Shaye pops up in a pivotal cameo and steals the entire film. She is quite brilliant and really gives the film a much-needed shot of adrenalin when it’s running on empty.
As said before, this will certainly strike a chord with younger teenagers looking for frights this Halloween but seasoned horror veterans will gain nothing from this. If you can approach it with an open mind, it’s a passable spooky thriller and there’s one unpredictable twist that was particularly well handled. Other than that, Ouija is a horror that dances with the devil of PG-13 scares a little too closely.