Ouija film review: Can Olivia Cooke shine in new horror?

Does new Blumhouse horror Ouija live up to its successful US theatrical run?

A supernatural horror brought to you by Michael Bay and Hasbro and released just in time for Halloween proves just as soulless as you might imagine it to be.

Ouija is Stiles White’s directorial debut feature, and it’s a deathly dull, repetitive and highly derivative effort.

Olivia Cooke (The Quiet Ones, Bates Motel) stars as the young Laine Morris, struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Debbie who was found hanging from her fairy lights at the start of the film in an apparent suicide.

When Laine attempts to contact Debbie via Ouija board, along with her group of close-knit friends and younger sister, Sarah (who she is a stand-in mother figure for), they unwittingly make contact with an evil spirit.

One of the ways in which Ouija falls short is the way it borrows elements from classic horror, but fails to use them in as effective a manner. One of its inspirations is Edward Sutherland’s 1933 horror classic Murders In The Zoo, which opens with the vision of a man with his mouth sewn shut, to extremely unnerving effect.

This image has been used across many horror films to the same shocking degree, but in Ouija the insistence on using it repetitively greatly lessens the impact.

Ouija also massively borrows imagery from superior J-horror films, most notably Ju-on. Themes of sisterhood, friendship and grief are quickly swept to the side in favour of cheap jump scares and loud bangs. The characters are thinly drawn and spout clunky expositional dialogue, plus there are no real underlying fears for this group to confront, making it quite the shallow experience.

Writing team Juliet Snowden and Stiles White have come up with the not-so-scary ‘hi friend’ to mark the arrival of an evil presence, and it’s laughable. Whether it’s etched on a desk or drawn on the condensation of a car window, it fails to ever be ominous.

Even the appearance of a wheelchair-bound Lin Shaye as a mental patient and mediumship expert can’t channel anything unsettling or even remotely fun due to the po-faced script, which moves from one uninspired kill to another with little momentum.

While White occasionally delivers tense moments, he has also managed to make a Ouija board film worse than Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard. Here’s hoping it doesn’t spawn any sequels.

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