Ouija Board (2009)

Rating: B-

Dir: Matt “MJ” Stone
Star: Nick Smithers, Ross Maxwell, Georgia Goodrick, Lee O’Driscoll

Paul (Smithers) is driving his four friends to a country cottage: it’s late, he’s tired and dozes off for a moment, only to plough into a girl standing in the middle of the road. Unable to contact the authorities, and with no idea where they are, after some discussion, they decide to put the body in the boot and, soon after, pull over for the night. They wake the next morning to find the body gone: now even more freaked-out, they decide to pretend nothing happened. However, upon arriving at the cottage, they start to see the blood-spattered girl, and other incidents make it clear that she is trying to tell them something. Coincidentally, Paul had brough a ouija board to the cottage for amusement.

While none of the group are exactly enthralled by the idea, they realize there’s not much they can do except to use it in a seance, and find out what the restless spirit wants from them. And from the audience’s point of view, as things unfold, this includes not one, but two entirely novel uses for an electric toothbrush… After a somewhat wobbly start – the sound-mix in the opening scene is awful – this settles down nicely and delivers a solid mix of chills and scares. There’s a carefully-constructed sense of gradual revelation, as it’s slowly explained who the ghost is, and why she’s so interested in the group – or, at least, one member of it. By and large, the behaviour of the characters is sensible, given the unusual circumstances; that’s far from a given in this genre, which tends to require a lot more irrationality for the plot to function.

The low-budget does occasionally peek though, especially in the special effects and stunt areas, and I feel the pacing is a little off. Especially early on, a lot of time is spent with the characters sitting around chatting. It’s not too much of a problem, as it’s amusing chit-chat, that gives an insight into their personalities [do British people really spend so much time discussing sex? Things must have changed in the decade since I left the shores…]. However, the film eventually gallops to an ending which feels rushed, and a few more minutes in the final act could have paid dividends. Still, given this was funded on a fistful of credit-cards, it’s better constructed than many: you certainly shouldn’t find yourself “board”. [Sorry…]