Ouija wants to conjure up the scares

Shelley Hennig takes a peek through the looking glass in Ouija.
Shelley Hennig takes a peek through the looking glass in Ouija. Photo/UndertheGunReview.net 

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]uija, the latest horror outing from producer Michael Bay, looks to scare up some ticket sales in theaters this weekend, by using tried and true methods dating back to the 1940’s — that filmmakers became too reliant on when all else failed.

The plot is familiar enough: a group of childhood friends reunite to solve the mystery of one of their classmates (Shelley Hennig) who committed suicide after playing with the titular board. When they attempt to make contact with her through it, they get more than they bargained for.

Screening the film was an experience; audience reactions alone were worth the price of admission. Snarky comments and yelling at the screen abounded, accompanied by target-demographic teens jumping in their seats; but the highlight was when an actual Ouija board was given away (the movie must act as a warning label).

The movie itself is run-of-the-mill, operating on cliches seen in a hundred other supernatural thrillers (including Annabelle and the sundry remakes of Japanese horror) — the chipper teen who kills herself, the haunted object, the house with a past, the mother and daughter ghosts, the oh-we’re-not-done-yet twist in the final act, and so on.

It provides quite a few jolts, but because (most of the time anyway) people happen to be standing around in the dark or behind a door — when they could just knock or say hey.

Ouija is Stiles White’s directorial debut. He spent years in the horror genre prior, writing Boogeyman and The Possession with partner Juliet Snowden (who co-wrote this project too). Long before any of that, he cut his teeth as a production coordinator on everything from Austin Powers to Interview with the Vampire.

With a resume like that, you would think a first effort at the helm might be more stellar, less derivative (something Michael Bay knows all about). This is producer Bay’s second team-up with Hasbro — owner of the license to the Ouija board and Transformers — although Ouija is no Age of Extinction (some will breathe a sigh of relief to that news).

If you are looking to turn your brain off for 90 minutes, and tell a fictitious person not to “go in there” then you might enjoy Ouija. If you want the same scares with more substance, steer clear and see Annabelle instead. Or, better yet, find and rent Val Lewton’s B-horror movies produced at RKO, which may be old but are really good (and started the whole jump-scare thing).