Granger on Movies: 'Ouija'
Is it simply a board game or a tool to communicate with the supernatural world? That's been the dilemma facing players since Ouija was first introduced in 1890 by Charles Kennard and Elijah Bond at their Kennard Novelty Co. According to folklore, when they asked the board what they should name it, it spelled out O-U-I-J-A, then G-O-O-D-L-U-C-K. Now, it's become a psychological horror thriller.
The plot revolves around teenage Laine (British actress Olivia Cooke) and Debbie (Shelley Hennig), best friends since childhood. Since one of the cardinal rules about using the Ouija board is that no one should play alone, Laine is shocked to learn that's just what Debbie was doing when she hung herself using a string of Christmas lights.
Propelled to investigate this gruesome event and find out exactly what happened, grieving Laine recruits her younger sister (Ana Coto), her boyfriend (Daren Kagasoff) and two pals (Bianca Santos, Douglas Smith) for a seance using the antique Ouija board that Debbie discovered in her attic. Sure enough, they make contact with the same malevolent spirit. In addition, they track down a former resident of Debbie's home, Paulina (Lin Shaye), now confined to a wheelchair in a mental institution.
Husband-and-wife team Stiles White and Juliet Snowden ("Knowing," "The Possession") crafted the low-budget screenplay with White making his directorial debut. Their objective was to utilize the flat board with its letters and numbers and its one movable part (called the "planchette") to make it as spooky and scary as possible -- with the full support of Hasbro, which now manufactures the game. Unfortunately, White relies on cheap jump scares and loud noises. Boo!
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Ouija" conjures up a tedious 3. Born out of a desire to explain the seemingly inexplicable, the Ouija board remains enigmatic.
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