By Jesse SaundersASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
Like its namesake, “Ouija,” is at best a simple, over dramatic time with at least one good scare. The film may fail as a whole, but smaller parts excel and highlight what could have been one of the best horror movies of the year, if allowed to fully flourish.
“Ouija” begins with the death of protagonist Laine’s (Olivia Cooke) best friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig). In standard horror movie fashion, Laine and her friends get involved with the supernatural; leading up to a very quick climax.
The film makes great use of the Ouija board, and seems most in its element when characters are using the board. The lead-up to the first big meeting feels like an acting exercise more than something that deserves to be on film.
Still relatively new to the screen, none of the younger actors are really able to carry the emotion required of teenagers who believe one of their friends has committed suicide. The flaw in the acting cannot be blamed solely on the cast though, as the writing is blocky and rough. There is never a point where a line is said that sounds natural. The conversations are almost entirely exposition and plot advancement, the few clever lines wouldn’t exist if they didn’t immediately effect the plot.
The characters are not particularly likeable, and the adults are shooed away before the film even hits the 30-minute mark. The writers actively ignore glaring plot holes just to advance the plot. The suspension of disbelief is a bit lost when not one parent seems concerned after the third death in a very tight friend group.
The little issues, along with possible subplots about regular teenage life are picked up and dropped without reason. The writers, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, are obviously out of their depth and seem to miss every chance at writing an interesting piece of dialogue. Their writing also leads to a rushed plot that ties up nicely only to have a cliffhanger forced in. The first 15 minutes of the film make for a story that could go in a million different directions, all more interesting than the one seen in the final product.
The visuals are really what make the film. Without an amazing set design, interesting cinematography and nice coloring “Ouija” would be a dull, empty horror film. Cinematographer David Emmerichs isn’t one of the most experienced directors of photography in the business, but he shows a real talent for setting a scene.
The shots know what to focus on and don’t feel confined to standard horror shots. The slow panning shots, and long focuses last long enough to allow the audience to really catch the little details of the scene.
In a nice turn of events, “Ouija” doesn’t try to be “Insidious” or “The Conjuring” like most other recent horror films. It is at no point the most original film, but it obviously has its own personal identity.
The set design has its ups and downs. The houses feel realistic, and really help get across details of characters personalities that the film doesn’t have time to discuss. Unfortunately this can lead to more focus being given to Debbie’s obsession with Shakespeare covering her room than Laine’s emotional state. Some of the location choices just seem slightly off, to the point where it brings up questions of the characters actual purpose for standing in these locations.
For most the deciding factor of “Ouija” will be the scares. Solidly holding onto a PG-13 rating, “Ouija” is still able to release a few great scares.
The film lacks the depth needed to really alone suspense to create a scary scene, but it’s obvious that the production team put a good effort into making an entertaining film.
"Ouija” is by no means perfect, but in a world where horror movies are pushed out in the dozens, it definitely is one of the more enjoyable and easy to digest films.
All-in-all the silliness and quickness of the film make it worth the time it takes to watch.