Main Cast: Olivia Cooke and Ana Coto

Director: Stiles White

I have no idea what’s wrong with Olivia Cooke, but she needs to rethink her movie choices. As one part of the brilliant cast on TV’s “Bates Motel”, she’s picking some real clunkers for her feature film roles, at least as far as 2014 was concerned. First there was the totally unscary The Quiet Ones, which I saw in theaters unfortunately, and then later that same year, Ouija, which I passed on in theaters because I could tell from the trailer it was going to be totally, 100% innocuous. And it was.

Cooke plays Laine Morris, one half of the best friend team of Laine and Debbie (Debbie Galardi is played very very briefly by Shelley Hennig, who would go on to be in the MUCH better movie Unfriended and is virtually unrecognizable here with her blonde hair), and about 10 minutes into the movie, she plays the only living half of that duo. Considering Debbie escaped having to be in the rest of this movie, I’m on the fence as to which friend is winning.

Laine insists Debbie would never have committed suicide–and if she did, I’d like to think she’d pick a better way that hanging herself with Christmas lights!–so when Debbie’s parents leave town for a while to “get away”, leaving Laine in charge of watering their plants and stacking their mail on the table by the door, Laine finds the Ouija board Debbie had been playing with before she died. She finds it in Debbie’s closet, where her job as plant-waterer and mail-stacker would never take her, but the story calls for it, so…

Gathering her crew, which consists of her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), Debbie’s boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith, “Big Love”), their other girlfriend Isabelle (Bianca Santos, “The Fosters”) and Laine’s bratty younger sister–who looks like she’s either the same age or a year older than Laine–Sarah (Ana Coto, DisCONNECTED), and they all gather at Debbie’s empty house to use the Ouija board to try and contact Debbie to find out if and why she killed herself. They do make contact with a spirit that spells out HIFRIEND on the board, but subsequently the spirit turns out to be anything but friendly, and, one by one, the gang is picked off while Laine tries to uncover the mystery of who the spirit is, what it wants, and how to stop it before she’s next on its kill list.

For all intents and purposes, Ouija is nothing more than a teen slasher flick without the slasher. But what it lacks in slashers in makes up for in stupid people. The movie was written by the writing team of Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, the team behind the godawful Boogeyman movie of 2005, the barely tolerable The Possession of 2012, and the Nicolas Cage movie Knowing from 2009. Obviously they’re not adept at crafting characters who do things that make sense, but sometimes those things can be reworked by a competent director. White himself is behind the camera this time, though, and dammit when he says a character is going to do something totally stupid, they’re gonna do it!

Let’s start with Debbie. After running Laine off at the beginning of the movie, having tossed her Ouija board in the fire and then telling Laine she didn’t feel like accompanying her best friend to “the game”, insisting her parents would be home soon and she’s got “leftovers”, Debbie sits down at the kitchen table to eat a pretty big plate of food. She takes a single bite, then a drink of water, before the open back door blows the porch door open. Debbie closes and locks the back door, then the burner on the stove turns itself on. Debbie turns it off, then turns out the kitchen light, leaving her mostly untouched plate of food on the table, slowly creeps through the house, turning out lights as she goes, and heads upstairs to her room where she finds–spoilers!–the Ouija board she had just burned a few minutes earlier. DUN DUN DUNNNN!

Luckily, this Mensa nominee is killed immediately after.

Later, Trevor is riding his bike–no, nothing like that, he’s a white teen male who looks like he could be on the football team, but he’s pedaling a Huffy–and reaches a dark and dank tunnel under the street (?) that probably serves as a shortcut(?). He GETS OFF THE BIKE AND DECIDES TO WALK IT THROUGH THE SPOOKY TUNNEL!!! He’s obviously creeped out by the experience, so he keeps walking and doesn’t even attempt to get back on the bike, thereby speeding his journey through the tunnel up considerably. Instead, he’s frightened by a shopping cart full of cans, drops his bike and pulls out a flashlight(?) Here’s a hint, if the tunnel you’re “biking” through requires you to have a flashlight on hand, go around it. He’s not killed right away, and that’s more the shame because he is completely useless as a plot mover in this movie.

Before “playing the game”, Laine lays out the rules for the Ouija. Never play alone. Never play in a graveyard. Utter this phrase (which I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter) before you start, and always say goodbye when you’re done. Nowhere on that list does it specify play in the dark. But when the kids gather in Debbie’s empty house to contact her spirit, they do so in the dark with a camping lantern on the table. OF COURSE you’re all freaked out, turned on the damn light, you bunch of dunces! THIS IS WHY YOU’RE ALL GETTING KILLED, YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO LIVE.

To be fair, there was a scene when the ghost turned out the lights, but that was the first time they played; the second time they didn’t even try to turn them on. So screw them, they get what they deserve.

And finally, Laine finds a video Debbie had made where she claims to have found a Ouija board while cleaning her attic. Later, when Laine and Pete go to Debbie’s still empty house to try to find out all they can about the ghost, Laine points to the attic access and says, “I think that’s where Debbie found it.” Really? What was your first clue? Cuz mine would have been the video where Debbie specified that very thing.

Good deduction skills, McDuff!!!

I just can’t with these people.

And I love me some Olivia Cooke, I think she’s a fine actress, but this movie! The script is the script you get when you leave grown adults who haven’t been teenagers in a while and have seen way too many teen slasher movies to write a dialogue for a teen slasher movie. And White isn’t even TRYING as a director here. If there’s a beat to hit, he hits it because he’s supposed to, but there’s not an ounce of originality anywhere.

Cooke has claimed in at least one interview that “50%” of this movie was reshot, and I’m not the least bit surprised. I mean I’m not the least bit surprised it’s such a failure as a successful horror movie. How in the holy hell this thing made over $100 million on a $5 million budget, I’ll never know, because I could tell from the trailer it was one to miss, and I see a LOT of crap in theaters.

And then, to add insult to injury, White has to give us the House on Haunted Hill climax. Good God, I couldn’t believe I was seeing it, and it was being played STRAIGHT! That piece of crap ending didn’t play in House on Haunted Hill, and that movie was straight up cheesy as could be. This one’s being played straight and they thought THAT would work? Wow.

Maybe the characters weren’t the only stupid ones.

In closing I just have one more issue with this movie, and it’s the entire concept. They keep calling Ouija “the game”. Let’s play the game, it’s just a game, we played the game and we woke something up. What game? Ouija is a GAME? Yeah, the boards are produced and sold by Hasbro, but it’s a game? How do you score it? What’s the goal? How do you win? Color me confused, but don’t games usually have a point? Make a lot of fake money, or collect the most pie wedges so you can answer the final question and be the smartest one in the room, or roll the perfect toss of the dice. Something like that. Ouija’s not a game. It might be a toy, but it’s definitely not a game. That’s just stupid.

Finally, this is for Olivia Cooke. Take Sean Nelson’s advice, Olivia: Make good choices. Please! Because this was definitely NOT the path to take for a successful movie career.

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