Director: Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos & Daren Kagasoff
Released by: Universal Studios
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Following the tragic death of her best friend (Shelley Hennig, Teen Wolf), Ouija centers on Laine (Olivia Cooke, Bate Motel) as she attempts to contact her using an antiquated Ouija board. After tinkering with the superstitious relic, Laine, along with her friends, awaken a resident spirit leading to a series of horrifying events. Douglas Smith (Big Love), Bianca A. Santos (Happyland), Ana Coto (DisCONNECTED), Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Robin Lively (Teen Witch) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) co-star.
In the tradition of board game adaptations such as Clue and Battleship, Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions, in association with Hasbro Studios, unveil their long in-development take on Ouija. Previously intended as a big-budget spectacle with several directors including McG (Terminator Salvation) and Breck Eisner (The Crazies) attached, Ouija would ultimately settle on a tighter $5 million budget with first time director Stiles White at the helm. With the game soaked in supernatural intrigue for generations, its modern day cinematic treatment is anything but memorable. After Debbie (Hennig) unexpectedly commits suicide, Laine (Cooke), with the assistance of her friends, try to summon her through the means of a Ouija board. After several contacts prove they are not communicating with their dearly departed friend, an evil spirit has instead been summoned, vowing to extract terror upon the teens. Littered with painfully dull characters and cheap jump scares, Ouija, ripe with potential, fails to make a chilling impact. As its cast slowly drops like flies, Laine investigates the history behind her deceased friend’s house where the board was found, leading her to its former inhabitant, Paulina Zander (Shaye), and her tragic history. While, Blumhouse Productions‘ good luck charm, Shaye, delivers one of the more solid performances as a mentally disturbed woman with a questionable past, her screen time is quite limited. In addition, talented lead actress Olivia Cooke, hot off her success on A&E’s Bates Motel, is vastly underwhelming due entirely to the film’s uneventful screenplay. Amongst a forgettable supporting cast of newcomers, retro enthusiasts will appreciate the lovely Robyn Lively (The Karate Kid, Part III, Teen Witch) in a brief role as Debbie’s grieving mother.
Considered a massive financial success earning over $95 million at the box-office, Ouija is predictable as they come, lacking suspense and a worthwhile narrative with such a novel icon at its core. As Platinum Dunes (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th) and Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) add another bankable effort under their belts, Ouija is sadly one, if not their biggest, blunder to date.
Universal Studios debuts Ouija with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Where the film miscalculates narratively, its high-definition presentation makes up for. Sparkling with natural skin tones, deep, inky black levels and fine detail, Ouija looks hauntingly superior. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Ouija pleases with crystal clear dialogue levels and aggressive jump scares prioritized nicely in their delivery. No distortion or any other such anomalies interfere in this otherwise tip top track. Supplemental features include two Blu-ray exclusives, The Spirit Board: An Evolution, tracing the Ouija boards history through the years with various interview subjects including Director Stiles White and Co-Writer Juliet Snowden (4:07) plus, Icons of the Unknown takes a brief scientific look into how the game works (4:00). In addition, Adapting the Fear interviews the cast and crew about turning the eerie board game into a feature film (3:45). Finally, a DVD edition of the film and a Digital HD UltraViolet code round out the packages bonus content.
With other board game adaptations including Monopoly and Candy Land in active development, Ouija most assuredly won’t be applauded for its memorability. Uninspired and relying on shallow scares, Ouija remains a spirit not worth communicating with. Universal Studios ushers the film onto Blu-ray with top-notch A/V standards and a small, rather uneventful spread of special features. Worthy of a stronger narrative considering its rich, supernatural background, Ouija is as lifeless as the spirits conjured within it.
Available now, Ouija can be purchased through Amazon.com and other fine retailers.