‘Ouija’: Board To Death (Movie Review)

Ouija: 1 ½ out of 5

Elaine: I’m just not ready to let her go.

So Ouija is a total bust.  Not that I expected much from a horror film based on the spooky toy, once mass-marketed by Parker Brothers, but it amounts to nothing all that special or entertaining, just laughably dull.  Something interesting to note is how so many old slasher films and even the recent Saw franchise, among other horror franchises, end up receiving similar bad review scores, but will go on to be remembered by cult audiences.  No one will remember Ouija.  That is the kind of movie it is. This is a thing that will come and go.  It may have allowed work for some young actors and a decent job for the filmmakers involved, but that’s about it.  Good on them for getting the film done, but yeah, it’s just a silly horror movie.

Set in Anywheresville, USA, the film features close teenage friends dealing with the death of their friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig).  It would appear that Debbie committed suicide, but her best friend Elaine (Olivia Cooke, fresh off her other bad horror film from earlier this year, The Quiet Ones) believes something much worse is at play.  You see, Elaine and Debbie used to play with a Ouija Board, when they were kids, and Elaine discovers one in Debbie’s room, which leads her to believing she may be able to get her friends together and channel Debbie to find out what really happened.  Guess what?  Elaine and her friends get more than what they bargained for.

Ouija has lots of problems, but the biggest issue has to be all its gaping plot holes.  It makes it all the more hilarious that this is a film based around a board game that has rules, yet the film decides not to really follow through on any of them.  Characters say some things, but proceed to make other choices, generally spelling doom for them.  Ghosts are seemingly bound by something, but then proceed to move out of those bounds.  Even the attempts of survival prove to be futile, as this movie does not care about giving these characters any chance to actually live, which ultimately lessons the stakes, given that outcomes are basically inevitable.

This has nothing to do strength of the actors involved or even expectations of a stronger script.  Even badly written movies know how to keep their own established rules in mind, Ouija just feels like a lazy effort to make a ‘dead teenager movie’.  Add to that all the jump scares, which do nothing but ensure that date nights for couples seeing Ouija will lead to the tight clutching of arms every now and again, and horror fans know what movie they are getting, which is unsatisfying and dull to the point of being unintentionally hilarious.

That was really the biggest take away:  the laughs I ended up having.  If there is something I may remember about Ouija, it is how I eventually stopped caring about how bad it was and started grinning at how bad it really was.  Characters make really bad decisions, leading to lots of audience groans – hilarious.  Genre film fan favorite Lin Shaye pops in to chew on scenery – laugh worthy.  The cast delivers ambivalent reactionary dialogue surrounding the deaths of friends – hysterical.  The decision to make a ghost confined the strength of a Ouija Board in a pivotal moment – worthy of a bow.  If only a film like this had a self-aware spirit, maybe then there would be something to actually appreciate.

I have not even mentioned the way the violence is handled in this PG-13 horror film.  Not that the rating makes much of a difference to me, if the film is effective in what it is doing, but Blumhouse Productions and Platinum Dunes have gotten a lot of mileage out of the types of films they have put together (Sinister, The Conjuring), and if they are not getting more talented players like James Wan to put together another Insidious (also PG-13, but also scary), resting on jump scares and sharp soundtrack chords is not nearly enough to make something like Ouija work.  Sometimes it is easy just to go with the simple reaction to a film and with that in mind, Ouija is lame.

Pete: I don’t think this is a good idea.


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