I played Ouija when I was little. It was just what you did at slumber parties, along with makeovers and prank phone calls. Even at eight years old, I knew that it wasn’t real. Hell, I was often the one pushing the planchette. Never once were we haunted – not even a weird creak or flicker of the lights.
Ouija (“Based on the Hasbro game Ouija,” according to the wholly unnecessary postscript) is about as exciting as one of those predictable late-night sessions.
Debbie and Laine have been best friends since they were children. The movie opens with Debbie hanging to death in what appears to be a suicide. Of course, the audience knows there was an evil spirit with her. Laine can’t shake the feeling that Debbie didn’t kill herself, and wishes she could say goodbye. She finds a ouija board among Debbie’s things (a much nicer set than the Hasbro set they played as a kid) and gathers together a rogue’s gallery of teen horror stereotypes to speak to Debbie: Laine’s boyfriend, Debbie’s boyfriend, Laine’s rebellious younger sister, and a slutty mutual friend. When they think they have reached Debbie they say goodbye, but it soon becomes clear that they are not communicating with Debbie.
It’s not so much that Ouija is actively bad. It is just so intensely generic. It is bland, uninspired, and brings nothing new to the demonic spirit subgenre. Writers Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (who also directed) were responsible for 2012’s equally forgettable demonic spirit flick The Possession, but at least that one had some genuine human emotions and decent scares. I cannot say that about Ouija.
Olivia Cooke as Laine spends the entire movie overwrought. Shelley Hennig as Debbie is weirdly chipper and happy, even when she is haunted by a spirit. Bianca Santos plays Isabelle the only way you can play slutty in a PG-13 movie: dumb. I initially thought that Daran Kagasoff and Douglas Smith as the boyfriends were acting weird because it was going to be some kind of double-cross later on in the story; turns out they are just bad actors.
The visual effects and “scares” are few and far between. When they are there, they are cheap. One of the hallmarks of this haunting is people with their lips sewn shut. I swear I saw the appliance pull loose in one close-up scene. One character’s death was edited to avoid any costly FX shots, and another character’s death was not seen at all. The scares were anything but. A few “creepy” shadows that looked like silhouettes you get carved at amusement parks, and the full demon reveal at the end (which looked good, but again – nothing new or original or interesting) but other than that, the scares rely on bad wiring and bumps in the night. Even the third act, which is supposed to be exciting and “raise the stakes.” Instead, the battle is quick, uninspired, and features a laughably-bad “twist” that is never explained.
Ouija never goes beyond what it obviously is: a quick, cheap Halloween throwaway that hopes to sell as many board games as it does tickets. Do not fall for it.