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The Ouija Movie: An Enjoyable Scream For Halloween

A haunted house where mysterious deaths have occurred. An old, wooden Ouija board that turns up in an attic. A prolonged electric-power outage. A group of curious teenagers who seem to lack a strong sense of self-preservation. What could possibly go wrong?

Sure, Ouija, released just a week before Halloween, is fairly standard horror-flick fare. For one thing, it is reliably punctuated with jump-scares that produce much of their shock though a sudden blast of noise or music in the reverberating vastness of the movie theater. These are usually nowhere near as effective during a cozier living-room screening.

In addition, as soon as those good-looking kids commit to using the Ouija board in order to speak “one last time” with their recently deceased friend, Debbie (Shelley Hennig)—the victim of an apparent suicide—the viewer pretty much knows where we’re headed. Evil forces will begin picking them off one by one, leaving only two to tell the tale. That’s just the way these things go.

Yet another generic element is the precocious behavior of the characters, who in spite of doing bubble-headed things like splitting up to wander individually through the pitch-black rooms of a ghost-infested house, generally look, act, and talk like people several years older.

But it is a horror film; it has expectations to meet—and it meets them with more style and better acting than most movies of its type. The skillful use of light and shadows in the haunted house creates and sustains an enjoyably dreadful atmosphere, and the ghostly special effects chill without inspiring mockery. Through it all, actress Olivia Cook (Laine) and her half dozen co-stars share their steadily mounting terror in a believable way.

Also, as a fan of spirit boards—no I’m not afraid of them, and I don’t think anyone else should be—it was great fun for me to see good, old Mr. Ouija serve as a character in his own right.

Overall, Ouija is a good, clean Halloween scare for almost the entire family. It’s rated PG-13.

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