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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Ouija, Review: Oui et Ja? More like Non and Nein


Ouija, Review: Oui et Ja? More like Non and Nein

It’s a Hasbro game. Hasbro is an American company that began as Hassenfeld Brothers. It makes toys and owns franchises like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Mr. Potato Head, Scrabble and Monopoly. Ouija, pronounced Wee-ja, was patented as a spirit board or talking board game in 1890 and acquired by Hasbro in 1991. It currently retails for around S$20. Is the price for the game value for money? No comment, because I have neither bought it nor played it, ever. Is the first movie venture based on Ouija, franchised to Platinum Dunes/Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures, a Halloween release, worth spending S$20 or even S$5 on? Read on.

Two young girls often play Ouija. One of them has a younger sister, who is not welcome when the game is on. The two remain friends as they grow up into their teens. Both have boy-friends. One of them, who has a Ouija in her house, makes the mistake of playing alone, which is against the rules. She ends up dead, hanging by a wire of decorative mini-bulbs. Her childhood friend and some other members of the group are unable to accept her sudden death, which appears like suicide. The dead girl’s mother disposes off her daughter’s possessions, giving the Ouija to her daughter’s game partner. So begins a series of attempts at unraveling the mystery using the board game, and serial killings of some of the teenagers, apparently caused by supernatural beings (read paranormal activity).

Does the planchette--sliding triangle that reads the answers to the questions posed by the players using the alphabets painted on the board, and allows the holder to see invisible beings present, through a built-in magnifying glass—move through ghostly kinetics or is it the unconscious but human  ‘ideomotor phenomenon’? All chances are that the evil undead  are ‘beings’ are from a family that lived in the house some 60-70 years ago, a mother and her two daughters. One of the daughters had disappeared mysteriously, while the other was sent to a mental asylum.

Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, who also wrote Knowing (2-009), and The Possession (2012), it is directed by White, who makes his debut at the megaphone. Juliet Snowden and White were hired on to rewrite and direct the Ouija movie. Previous script drafts were penned by TRON: Legacy co-writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), and Marti Noxon (Fright Night). Snowden’s name is missing from the final direction credit, as White gets it solo. It took about seven years to see the light of day and was made at 5% of the original budget. Expected to be released in October 12013, it finds itself in cinemas a year later.

With loopholes and unexplained phenomena (even paranormal phenomena have to be justified), White resorts to standard horror practices, like unending slow pans, jumps, loud music and now ‘you see me now you don’t’ ploys. The teenagers never seek professional help while facing horrendous situations and nerve-wracking serial killings. Moreover, they show very little shock or trauma at the deaths of their friend. Ouija itself is portrayed in a totally negative light and the game-board is repeatedly thrown into the fire. That it gets resurrected every time may be good for buyers who might believe that the board will never see wear and tear, and is fire-proof.

Most of the cast are good-looking. Shelley Hennig is killed way too soon. British TV actress Olivia Cooke, and Darren Kagasoff, are up to the mark. Lin Shaye would have been welcome in a brief role, but tends to ham. Ana Coto has a badly defined character. Adequate support comes from Bianca Santos and Douglas Smith.

Oui is yes in French, Ja is yes in German. Unfortunately for Oui+ja, it is a case of two ‘yes’s making two ‘no’s.                           How about NonNein, instead of Ouija?

Rating: *1/2


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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