Supernatural objects should come with a label that reads, “Touch at Your Own Risk.” Perhaps that warning would have deterred Laine, played by Olivia Cooke of A&E’s Bates Motel, from fooling around with the spirit board in the new supernatural thriller Ouija. Perhaps.
In director Stiles White’s film, opening today nationwide, Laine and her friends awaken dark forces when they use an ancient Ouija board to try to contact a girl who dies mysteriously.
Cooke, who’s in Vancouver filming the upcoming third season of Bates Motel, spoke with SPINOFF about of the power of the Ouija, what makes a good scream, and the deteriorating state of Norman Bates.
Spinoff Online: There hasn't been a horror film centering around Ouija boards in a long time. What's so terrifying about these items?
Olivia Cooke: Ever since we were young, we've known about the boards and not to mess with them and not to mess with things you don't know about. Everyone has a story from either their own experience or a friend's experience or a relative's experience of something creepy. Everyone knows about Ouija boards, but nobody understands them. It's a very ominous thing. Before doing Ouija, I never realized that these boards were seen as toys all over America.
They tend to get stored with other games.
It's so weird. It's definitely not a children's toy.
Introduce us to your character Laine and what sets the movie's chain of events into motion.
When Laine's friend Debbie [Shelley Hennig of Teen Wolf] dies in what looks to be suicidal circumstances, Laine is very upset and confused. She didn't know anything about this. This is her best friend, and Debbie could have turned to Laine and spoken out or asked for help. One day, Laine finds the Ouija board in her best friend's room. They played with it when they kids, so Laine is like, "I know this is odd, but I just need some closure. I know nothing is going to happen through playing with this Ouija board, but I just want to try and reach out to Debbie and see if I can talk to her." She gets her friends on board, but they are all very skeptical. They understand this is something that Laine wants to do to get closure from the situation. Then, in true horror fashion, things start to go a bit wrong.
What are some of the omens that something is amiss?
The [Ouija] pointer starts to move on its own. People around her are very quick to blame it on other people at the table, saying it's them and they are being sick. They adamantly say it's not them. Then from the messages that they receive from the Ouija board, they quickly begin to figure out that something is not quite right. And they don't know if they are talking to Debbie or not. The house Debbie used to live in also plays a massive part to why things are happening.
How do these strange occurrences force Laine to step up?
My character is innately curious and is very much a heroine and a protector. She's very maternal in the sense if something goes wrong, she feels responsible for everybody's life and her own. Because she was the one to drag people into this, she wants to stop it. In order to stop it, Laine needs to go out and ask questions and find out about the history of the house and how they can stop what's happening to them. It's those things you shout out in the cinema as an audience member. "Don't go back in [the house], you stupid idiot." I think that's what makes an enjoyable horror film, where the audience is just one step ahead of the characters.
How physically demanding was the movie?
There's a lot of heavy breathing. There was a lot of running about, falling on the floor and crawling through things. I didn't really think it was going to be so physical. In horror, there's a lot of running away and being yanked. There's a lot of screams, which is just physically demanding on the vocal chords.
Is there an art to mastering the perfect scream?
I don't think there's any special pitch or sound that makes a good scream. If it is just coming from a real place and has raw emotion, that makes it a good scream. Everyone can do that classic horror movie," Ahhhh!!!" That's not necessarily truthful in situations. You don't know how your body is going to react when something scares the living daylights out of you.
How does Ouija compare to your other horror projects, such as The Quiet Ones and Bates Motel?
I never see Bates Motel as a horror. It's a thriller in the sense that it's very psychological and suspenseful. For The Quiet Ones, I really can't compare the two. I think the difference between the two of them is one is very American and one is very British. OuijaThe Quiet Ones was set in the ‘70s and has a rustic, authentic, vintage feel to it. They are both very different, but very scary.
What have you learned about acting in this genre?
What I've learned from this genre is how to create suspense. I don't know. I don't really approach movies as horror movies. I approach them with the character first and how they would react to different circumstances.
Looking your other current role, what can you tease about Bates Motel's third season, and what's in store for Emma?
Emma had a very active summer in the last season. Her lung capacity is depleted because of an infection. You start to wonder how long she really has left. Emma's still working at the motel. There's a proposition from Norman [Freddie Highmore] that excites her as well. In their relationship, they get a lot closer in a way that is super-lovely and exciting for Emma, but then she realizes not all is what it seems.
How much more unhinged will Norman become?
A lot more. There's only a certain point we can take the character Norman Bates to. Each episode is leading to where Psycho begins. He's always getting more and more unhinged.
Should viewers be worried for Emma's safety?
Yes, I think they should worry for all the characters' safety with Norman's health depleting so much.