Studio: High Octane Pictures
Director: Andrea Mugnaini
Writer: Andrea Mugnaini
Producer: Andrea Mugnaini
Stars: Katharina Sporrer, Alan Cappelli Goetz, Andrea Fachinetti, Holly Mumford, Gianfranco Quero
In her grandmother’s Italian home, a young woman and her friends discover a Ouija board that reveals a dark family secret.
“Ouija Séance: The Final Game” is weird. I don’t necessarily mean that in a strictly unflattering way, although I definitely don’t mean to imply it has “Beyond the Black Rainbow” or “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” oddity appeal either.
The one-line summary essentially boils down “Ouija Séance” to a movie where four friends run afoul of paranormal possession after using a spirit board while partying at a remote house in the woods. There’s a bit more to it than that. Still, the basic premise has been done to death and then some, though “Ouija Séance” picks a bafflingly roundabout path to get there.
“Ouija Séance” opens on Sarah, an American studying abroad in Italy, from where the maternal side of her family hails. Nearing the end of her term and just two weeks from returning home, Sarah sets her sights on celebrating with best friend Barbara. Weekend plans involve heading to a party with Barbara’s arrogant boyfriend Guillame as well as Rico, who harbors a romantic interest in Sarah.
Bureaucracy gets in the way when Sarah receives a phone call from an electric company’s lawyer. Sarah inherited a house in the deep countryside from a grandmother she never met. Sarah posted the property for sale sight unseen and it’s slated for demolition. However, a red tape snafu requires her to drop off paperwork directly at the house in the middle of nowhere.
I can’t imagine why a lawyer would want important papers dumped on the doorstep of an abandoned house many miles from civilization instead of his office. I also can’t count how many movies I’ve criticized for using the same setup of college friends partying at an isolated place in the forest. But “Ouija Séance’s” head-scratchingly “huh?” alternative to explaining the how and the why mildly makes me wish writer/director Andrea Mugnaini settled on redundant simplicity instead.
Upon arriving at the house, the four friends are startled by Dante, a scraggly groundskeeper made to seem frightening by the scar over his blind eye and ominous audio sting accompanying every close-up of his ax blade. Dante serves the usual dual function of providing ominous portent and late inning exposition. He could explain everything he knows right now. Instead, Dante mutters a cryptic warning in Italian and disappears for the time being.
Sarah turns out to be the only person who can understand Dante because no one else speaks Italian. What’s peculiar about this is that Sarah is supposed to be American, but she is played by Katharina Sporrer, an Austrian-born actress masking a German accent. British actress Holly Mumford plays Barbara, and makes no attempt to hide her nationality. As Guillame, Alan Cappelli Goetz originally comes from Belgium, although his accent gives away his native tongue fluency in Italian immediately. The same goes for Andrea Fachinetti as Rico, who is obviously 100% Italian. Nevertheless, everyone needs Sarah to translate Dante’s ramblings even though there is no doubt that the two men are well versed in the language.
As with Sarah’s reason for having to visit grandmother’s house in the first place, why does “Ouija Séance” make everything so hard on itself? Why can’t everyone else just understand Italian too? Why establish Sarah as American when being Austrian would change nothing? Little details make little sense, and that’s what I mean about the movie constantly feeling “off,” which might be a more accurate descriptor than “weird.”
The four friends don’t even use the Ouija board until 30 minutes into their 80-minute movie. After about 60 seconds, a gust of wind spooks the quartet and the titular event promptly ends. It’s about as anticlimactic as any cinematic Ouija session has ever been.
Come to think of it, “anticlimactic” might be a better still word for summing up “Ouija Séance.” The meat of the story relates to Sarah’s longstanding trauma of seeing her mother commit suicide when Sarah was three. Her family’s dark secret connects to grandmother’s old house of course, and one minute with Ouija was all Sarah needed to start unraveling the mystery.
Until the finale, nothing of import happens. The script stalls in a second act filled with fabricated relationship drama between Barbara and Guillame, Sarah and Rico, and then Sarah and Barbara. None of their bickering or failed flirts amounts to anything more than motivation to move people around in preparation for act three, when Dante returns in a hurry to rush the climax through to its un-thrilling conclusion.
Despite initially appearing as though it might have uniquely foreign flavor, “Ouija Séance” ends up being tap water terror from a microbudget faucet. Bland dialogue dares not be more creative than “I’ll kill you, you bitch!” or someone shouting “I can’t see!” after something blinds his eyes. The Ouija board carved from a tree stump looks unusually cool, but it only peripherally factors into the film, never mind the title. I can’t picture anyone having any sort of investment in the scare-free movie’s undercooked plot developments or uninteresting personalities.
I’ve seen worse movies based around Ouija boards. I’ve seen much better ones too. I’d say “Ouija Séance: The Final Game” is somewhere in between, except its blandness assuredly lands the film in the bottom half of that split.
Review Score: 30