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Stars: Olivia Cooke, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca Santos, Shelley Hennig, Ana Coto, Lin Shaye, Claudia Katz, Robyn Lively

Director: Stiles White

Halloween inevitably spawns celluloid shockers designed to cash in at the box office on a trick-or-treat basis. To coin a phrase, “’tis the season to be scary!”

This glossy teen-aimed teen-driven supernatural scare show does what is expected of it without pretending to be seeking subtext or wooing horrorflick auteurists, Babadook-style. Its key protagonists are teenagers, ditto, I imagine, its target audience. I once saw a Halloween horrorflick in California’s Palo Alto, a small town infested with cheerful ghouls on bikes. A mermaid sold me my cinema ticket and a six-foot-tall rabbit sat in front of me, removed his head and asked if I could see the screen.

Ouija would have gone down pretty well with that anything-goes Halloween audience without creating any cultists.

The storyline is simple.

A bunch of typical celluloid teenagers living in a white picket fence suburb play the supposedly supernatural game on the wooden Ouija board they find. One of them dies as the result of the evil forces they release, the board lures them again (despite Ma’s warning “Do not go seeking answers from the dead”) the words ‘Hi Friend’ mysteriously appear all over the place and all hell (well, ‘15’ certificate hell), breaks loose, mummified corpses and spectres with sewn up lips adding suitable shock quotients.

The cast do what is required of them, well aided and abetted by David Emmerichs’ atmospheric cinematography and to-the-point editing.

First-time director (and co-writer with Juliet Snowden) White sticks by the rules of the genre, generating enough suitable ‘make-you-jump’ moments and sinister scares without breaking new ground or hallowed genre rules but finally delivering a slick shock show that doesn't outstay its welcome, without being particularly memorable, ending up as more treat than trick.

(The film’s apparently based on yet another Hasbro board game. Which leaves me looking forward to the attack of killer blanks from 'Scrabble – The Slaughter' and ending up going directly to a ‘Midnight Express’ style jail when ‘Monopoly the Movie’ hits the screen).

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
89 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Oct 2014