Don’t play with Ouija boards. If horror films have taught us anything, it’s don’t play with Ouija boards. Debbie (Shelley Hennig), however, decides to play with a Ouija board. Adding fuel to that fire of stupidity, she plays alone. #Stupid.
Her friend, Laine (Olivia Cooke), turns up, barely notices the steep change in Debbie’s behaviour (such as not letting her in the house or going to the basketball game), and leaves. Things go bump in the evening and Debbie turns the lights off after spooky things start happening. #Stupid. This is an early nope the f- out moment, but if spooky noises are frightening you, leave the house. Go see friends. Go anywhere (with the lights on). Anyway, she doesn’t, so she dies by seeing the spirit through the . . . hold on . . . through the planchette and hangs herself with Christmas lights.
This film came out in October.
Anyway, everyone’s sad and we meet our protagonists: Laine (Debbie’s best friend), Laine’s sister Sarah (Ana Coto), Isabelle (Bianca Santos), Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) and Pete (Douglas Smith). While rummaging through Debbie’s old room, Laine sees a Ouija board (which was hidden far away in a cupboard; if the ghost wanted it to be found it could have made the journey easier) and remarks how she didn’t know Debbie had one. Despite in their very final conversation, Debbie told her she did.
It holds no mention or impact on the film, but both Debbie and Laine have British decorations (pillows, posters, etc.) in their room. Olivia Cooke is English (and from Oldham, near Manchester; so why is there a Liverpool city sign on the wall? Football clubs aside, Liverpool and Manchester have never gotten along), but Shelley Hennig is American. Just seemed a strange inclusion (especially so prominently displayed). Even aside from the British pillows, they have posters of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet; by all means appreciate British history and culture, but why didn’t the writers/directors use it in any way?
In a random scene which is supposed to be character building, I guess, it’s explained that Sarah likes older men, which Laine and her family disagree with (Ana Coto, now 29, was 23 during filming). Coto is older than Cooke by three years. Anyway, Sarah’s older man pulls up and waits outside for her, clearly in view of Laine, who tells him to leave. #Stupid. If you’re sneaking around, knowing your sister doesn’t approve, don’t park out front.
Laine then decides that there’s a presence in the house (despite no evidence pointing to this) and decides everyone should use the Ouija board and talk to it. Kids are stupid, and people use Ouija boards in real life, so I’m not marking this as stupid (unlike Debbie, who used it alone). They hold it in Debbie’s house (oh, I should mention, both Laine’s parents and Debbie’s have randomly disappeared, because who has time for adults in this film), and a spirit makes contact. Strangely, Debbie’s ex (either Trevor or Pete . . . they both look and act similar) just happens to be there ‘because he has a key’. Okay, sure, why not.
It leads the planchette to spell out ‘Hi friend’ before stopping on ‘D’ when they ask who’s talking. Do they check what the spirit means by D? Nope. Do they clarify that it is Debbie? Nope. Do they think that it could stand for Damien, David, Douglas, Devil, Dexter, Dolores or Drake? Nope. They instantly know the spirit who spelled out eight letters to say ‘Hi friend’ couldn’t be bothered going another six to make ‘Debbie’. #Stupid.
Despite Laine saying the rules as a child and as an adult, they leave without saying goodbye to the spirits (after being spooked in a series of spooky events). #Stupid. And rude. Always say goodbye, kids.
Oh, I should also mention that Laine’s nana saw the Ouija board and warned her not to play with it. Remember that.
The next day they all see ‘Hi friend’ scribbled in random places (but don’t really address it with each other, because why would you), as jump scares pad out the run time. One of which saw Trevor/Pete riding his bike towards a tunnel, then walking it through the tunnel. Why get off the bike? It’s not dark and it’s not long. Obviously he gets off to be spooked, but it makes no sense.
After everyone is spooked, they get back together and once again use the Ouija board. ‘D’ is not Debbie (shocking, right?), instead it’s DZ. What is with this spirit being so lazy? DZ warns of Mother’s arrival, and a spooky face appears. They leave.
As if Olivia Cooke having to appear in this film wasn’t bad enough, Lin Shaye then appears, playing Paulina Zander (oh, DZ is Doris Zander, because Trevor/Pete used a search engine called ‘Search’ and found it. It’s amazing how easy it is to find things in horror movies). Paulina is Doris’ sister and we get exposition. Their mother would use the Ouija board to attract spirits and place them in the body of her ten-year-old daughter. Makes sense. But they because too loud and she sown Doris’ mouth shut. Makes sense. Then she killed Doris. All perfectly sensible decisions.
To kill Mother, they must find Doris’ body (which of course is still in Debbie’s house somewhere, thank god her mother is away) and cut open the lips, allowing Doris to kill Mother.
(Quick side-note: Laine saw a home video of Debbie finding the Ouija board, then went looking for the attic and said ‘I think this is where she found it’ in a serious tone. You shouldn’t have to ‘think’; you have proof. Yes, that’s where she found it. #Stupid. Spooky jump scares happened in the attic.)
Anyway, the gang (minus Isabelle who was possessed and killed in a bathroom – I’m so emotionally heartbroken by that wonderfully written character’s death – in a scene where the bath takes about ten seconds to run) seek out and find the body of Doris and Laine, despite Mother attacking and hurting her friends, waits around before cutting open the lips. Why wait? Your friends are in danger, you’re being haunted. Cut the lips. #Stupid.
Doris kills Mother but, oh my god, drum roll please: PLOT TWIST.
Mother was the hero of the story, Doris the villain. I don’t know why; Lin Shaye babbles some nonsense about being free. Now they visit their nana, remember the one who actually knows stuff about Ouija boards (#Clever, as late as it is), and she says they must destroy the body and the board (earlier Debbie tried burning the board, it didn’t work). Back they go to the house (Trevor/Pete dies just before they see nana, and the other one dies at the house). One of those two is Laine’s boyfriend, but she doesn’t care about them dying.
The only slight hiccup in their plan comes from Sarah being nearly murdered by Doris before Laine uses the board alone in an effort to draw Doris to play with her. She’s getting a #Clever for the plan, but it makes no sense. Any spirit could have played with her. Why couldn’t Doris kill Sarah quickly and go play?
Anyway, Doris goes to Laine and they’re fighting over the planchette. Doris nearly kills Laine, but Debbie’s spirit returns and makes the save. Where has Debbie’s spirit been this whole film? Who knows. Who cares.
They throw Doris’ body into the fire, along with the board, and live happily ever after.
Except for the final scene where Liane finds the planchette in her room, looks through it and dies. #Stupid.
Now, let’s talk about Doris.
I probably sound like a right square demanding rules to be established in a film, but it allows for a more logical storytelling experience. This film makes rules (don’t play alone, don’t play in a graveyard (which is said twice and we go nowhere near a graveyard), always say goodbye and you see the spirit through the planchette), but doesn’t follow them. Sure, Debbie played alone, but she said goodbye. She also saw the spirit through the planchette.
The gang didn’t play alone, and only when it was convenient saw Doris through the planchette. Initially it was through surfaces (mainly mirrors), which I can accept, but then they were just walking in the attic and spooking them wherever they go (including picking up Trevor/Pete and hoisting him into the water, as with Isabelle who was raised and dropped to her death). The only brief bit of explanation is from the nana who says, ‘she’s getting stronger’.
But then Laine needs the planchette to see the spirit at the end. Make up your bloody mind, Doris.
Also, Doris being the villain, rather than Mother, was done for a twist but was probably worse than leaving it as Mother. Why not have Mother a grieving widow, who wants her husband back and channels spirits into her daughter be the villain, not the poor innocent Doris whose life was ruined? Bear in mind, Doris had spirits pumped into her, and was then murdered. Why is she the villain, again? Oh yeah, evil spirit.
There’s no reason for Laine to suspect Debbie still roams the house, no logic placed in how or why the spirit attacks and next-to-no effort placed in the script. Doris won’t be joining Freddy, Jason or Michael at the Villain Awards.
8/10: They All Need A ‘Warning: I’m Stupid’ Label
Common Sense Award: Nana
Braindead Award: Debbie
Director: Stiles White
Writer: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Ever wondered how weird the word ‘Ouija’ is? When you pronounce it, it doesn’t begin with an ‘O’ or end with an ‘a’. Honestly, my mental deconstruction of the word ‘Ouija’ was more entertaining than this film.
Of course, I’ve seen worse; films more boring, more nonsensical, more stupid, but this barely reaches above them. I like Olivia Cooke, why she felt the need to do this is beyond me (I know the starring role in a movie is alluring, but have some self-respect). Even worse is Lin Shaye’s appearance. Why, Lin, why?
The rules it establishes are soon broken, because ‘the spirit’s getting stronger’, a lazy writer’s way of ignoring logic. And this film is littered with lazy writing. The most notable being how Doris chose to simply put ‘D’ and have everyone accept it’s Debbie. Are we, as the audience, supposed to believe it’s Debbie? It’s so lazily done that we feel absolutely nothing when the truth is revealed. Then she just says DZ and yet that’s enough to find her on the internet.
Sarah’s storyline of liking older men goes nowhere, they lazily write the parents out of the money because of business trips and a need to get away (or something), which, in the case of the former, if your daughter’s best friend has just died, why would you go on a business trip? We see no funerals, so time is never established (at the start is it the wake after the funeral at Debbie’s house or just a gathering? Where is Isabelle’s funeral?) There’s a scene with a teacher who tries to pass off mental health tips to help them out, but Laine shrugs it off and leaves. Are you that desperate to stretch this to 90minutes?
It’s lazy, it’s cliched, it’s full of awful characters who do very little logically and have very little emotion (seriously, Debbie, Isabelle and one of Trevor/Pete died and they just show no emotion). One scene switches to school, where they make plans, then we switch to night-time where they’re executing those plans. Does Doris have the day off? Add to this Isabelle saying she didn’t want to come out, but then comes out, and it showed just how lazy it is.
Jump scare after jump scare, one person targeted at a time, twists for no reason: pass. It only gets two stars for personal because I’ve seen much worse. But this is the very minimum bar to reach two stars. I was shaking my head, but never truly bored, so it gets something.
One last thought: why don’t these characters, who are pretty much aware they’re cursed, make videos telling of their ordeal? I know a suicide video may be morbid, but it’ll help give closure to people (and not have them think you’ve killed yourself). And the lips being stitched look silly.
The Cast Leader: Olivia Cooke
The Cast Loser: Daren Kagasoff/Douglas Smith (I don’t know which one was which)
Personal: * * Acting: * * Writing: * Personal: * *
Overall: * ¾