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This teen-centric supernatural chiller got a lot of flack from hardcore horror fans when it first came out, but considering it’s aimed at tweens and not at those who could recite Texas Chainsaw Massacre in their sleep, it’s treatment can be viewed as a little harsh. It’s maker, Blumhouse Productions did give us adults the clever and spooky Oculus, so let the Divergent crowd have their horror flick, too.
The story tells of longtime friends Debbie (Shelly Hennig) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) who have been pals since childhood and even played with a ouija board as kids. Lately Debbie has been acting strange and, unknown to Laine, is dabbling with a ouija board again and whatever Debbie has contacted, drives her to commit suicide. Heartbroken, Laine discovers her friend’s indulgence and she decides to gather their friends in Debbie’s empty house and use the ouija board to contact her and find out why she took her own life. Sounds like a good idea, right? Obviously, what they conjure up is not Debbie and now there is a malevolent force following Laine and her friends with their demises in mind. Can Laine discover the true identity of this dark spirit and send it back to whatever hell it came from?…before it gets them first!
Sure, this is a silly flick and it is filled with all the clichés and familiar horror trappings from every horror flick made in the last five years, but as directed by Stiles White, from a script he co-wrote with Juliet Snowden, it never tries to be more than it is. It’s made for the ages 10 to 15 crowd and it knows it. OK, so…even on that level, it is a bit stale and predictable and relies on jump scares far more than atmosphere. Yet, considering the target audience, mostly teenage girls and their dates, the film still works well enough for those who are far less demanding than the veteran horror flick fan, who is looking for the next big thing. It occupied the time well enough and was completely forgettable, but I’ve been watching horror films for over four decades and the flick wasn’t made for me. Go in with that understanding and it can be moderately amusing and certainly far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year. Sure there are plot holes, characters do really stupid things and the last act gets especially goofy, but the film is competently enough made and has kind of a Scooby Doo with an edge vibe to it. Though, it could have used a bit more of Scooby’s hip humor.
The main cast are all attractive, though none really acts with any enthusiasm and are basically generic twenty-somethings as teens. Olivia Cooke has shown that she has potential as an actress, but even she can’t muster too much gusto as the lead, Laine. Two mediocre horror flicks (the other being The Quiet Ones) in one year is not a good sign though, for Miss Cooke. We also get cameos by the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye and Paranormal Activity 2‘s ghost fighting housekeeper Vivis Colombetti, playing a similar part as Laine’s paranormally knowledgeable grandmother. To be honest, Shaye and Colombetti are having far more fun and get the material far better than their monotone speaking, younger co-stars who seem to be taking this way too seriously.
I certainly didn’t hate this flick. As a movie for older kids and young adults, it’s just fine. They probably will have a good time with it. It’s not made for a veteran horror buff like me and I’m not going to judge it from the perspective of one. If I were an average 13 year-old, I probably would have been very amused and maybe a bit spooked. As a horror movie loving adult, it passed the time and didn’t insult me, but I did go in with reasonable expectations. Its forgettable and predictable, but if you are a kid between 10 and 15, it’s probably just as much fun as the Hasbro board game that inspired and co-produced it. It was a big hit and a sequel has been announced, so it seems like it satisfied it’s intended audience just fine!
2 and 1/2 planchettes!