Imitative, far from terrifying horror from debut writer-director Stiles White
If you're tempted to peer through the planchette this Halloween, you will unfortunately see nothing more than a cavalcade of tired horror tropes: pretty young things in peril, an abundance of melodramatic exposition and an over-reliance on things that go bump in the night.
The story, such as it is, sees a group of teens led by Laine (Olivia Cooke) attempt to contact their dead friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig), who killed herself after playing with a Ouija board she found in (where else) the attic. But when the kids make contact with another malevolent spirit, they must find a way to send it back to hell, a convoluted quest which ends up in (where else) the basement.
Less derivative and more carbon copy, Ouija plays like a monster mash-up of everything from The Amityville Horror and Final Destination to The Ring. This is a narrative we've seen countless times, and debut director Stiles White (who co-wrote the screenplay with Juliet Snowden) brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Bonds between sisters, mothers and daughters seem like key themes, but these potentially interesting female relationships are not developed beyond superficial plot drivers. To add insult to injury, all the central characters exhibit such foolish behaviour that it's impossible to connect with their plight. And while cinematographer David Emmerichs does supply some visual flourish – his camera stalking low through the shadows – the creepy atmosphere is rendered ineffectual by a dull story and lacklustre scares.
Of course, Ouija has been crafted specifically as an easy Halloween sell, a safe screamer, and so creativity and depth were unlikely top of the agenda. But when films like Sinister, Shutter and The Purge show just how inventive a genre this can be, it's frustrating to see yet another bland collection of clichés being served up in the name of horror.
General release from Fri 31 Oct.