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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Movie Review: Ouija (2014)

I was loosely conversing with a friend last night. He'd linked a trailer for a film called The Curse of La Llorona. In no uncertain terms, I think it looks rather bad. Very generic, jump scares, and so on. To make matters worse, this is from the guy who will take over The Conjuring series! The humanity!

Okay, I'll admit: I overreacted—big time. I mostly did so for show as I'm nothing if not an Oscar-worthy performer. Alas, I also went overboard with it and i must say, it wasn't my best moment. But, one thing stuck with me. My friend told me I was hard to please. This struck a chord with me as I like to think that I'm a very fair and reasonable individual.

Too bad my blog doesn't really reflect that and seems to be a lot of whining about bad movies. So, I'll change that now with today's film: Ouija.

A film with a startlingly low 6% on Rottentomatoes, Ouija is about as simple a horror movie can get. A group of kids play with the titular Ouija board and bad stuff starts happening. That, in of itself, isn't a bad premise. It's very to the point and gets the ball rolling. However, in the case of Ouija, it's all there is to it.

Therein lies the problem with nearly everything in Ouija. If there was ever a film that's too safe with how it plays out, I'm certain this movie would be the poster child. You see, Ouija's ambitions end where the Encyclopedia of Horror Movie Tropes does. Every possible note and beat is hit and touched upon. Now, again, that isn't inherently bad. I personally feel that tropes and cliches are inevitable when writing. What matters is how you utilize them.

As one may guess: Ouija uses them in the most predictable way possible. The film plays out as any other haunted house/ghost film does. Characters are haunted by an evil spirit, weird stuff happens to them, and they eventually learn it's a ghost that can only be stopped by using this one old trick that exorcists hate. This, naturally, comes after several people have been killed in ways appropriate to a PG-13 rating.

Now, in spite of that, I'll admit that Ouija's usage of them isn't necessarily bad. Rather, it's just… okay. In fact, I found almost everything about Ouija to simply be “okay”. There are a few things about it that are truly awful, but the film is by and large workmanlike. If I'm to be honest, that makes it infinitely more frustrating to talk about, as nothing exactly stands out.

Performance wise, all but one are par for the course. Said exceptional one is from Lin Shaye, who seems to play the spiritual expert in nearly everything I see her in. Not that I have an issue with that as she's really good at it. Here, however, she's hardly in the movie. As for the rest of the cast, they're okay. None of the main cast stood out to me, save for Douglas Smith who I recognized from The Bye Bye Man. That terrified me more than anything else.

Considering Ouija is a horror film, one would expect it to be scary. To its credit, the movie's visual look isn't that bad. In fact, I'll say that in the hands of a stronger director, the movie could've at least been an atmospheric film. However, the film's ungodly heavy reliance on jump scares is its death heel. Not once does it let up, and not once do any of the scares register anything more than a shrug

On the brighter side of things, Ouija is actually pretty well paced. Whether or not this is a product of the film's thread bare plot or the writers managed to get this one aspect right, I don't know. Regardless, I never found myself bored in the way that I was clamoring for the film to end. That said, this doesn’t make up for the film's trope ridden story.

With all of that said, I want to stress something. I went into Ouija with some of the lowest expectation possible. After all of the horrible things I'd heard about this movie, i was anticipating something catastrophic and an example of truly awful filmmaking. If I'm to be honest, I find those labels against this film to be woefully misplaced.

Ouija is by absolutely no means a good film, but it's also by no means one of the worst things ever. If anything, it's the perfect example of what happens when one plays it too safe. I've seen people say “if I'm good at doing something, I'll keep doing it!”. I myself figured I could do that and succeed without a care in the world.

Here's the problem: that ambition and mindset leads to laziness, whether or not you realize it.

The lack of any challenge will lead you to become less and less engaged in what it is you're doing, and you'll end up becoming sloppier with your work. The way I see it, it won't take long for someone to end up making something as low-quality as Ouija.

I may not find Ouija to be a terribly made film, but I did find it to be a lazy and dull one. It's so safe and painfully simplistic that the only truly scary achievement to its name is how much money it made.

While I can't recommend Ouija in the sense that I found it good, I do think it's worth watching if you want an example of what happens when you don't go outside your comfort zone. If you're an aspiring writer, filmmaker, musician/singer, or game developer, I definitely think this is one of two extremely good examples of what happens when you don't challenge yourself with your craft.

The other film we'll get to tomorrow.

Final Score: 2/5

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