Making a horror movie about a Ouija board should be a bunt. The spiritual conduit/family friendly board game has been creeping out kids at sleepovers and slumber parties for decades. Merely mounting a competent ghost story around the board would have been enough for this flick to succeed. Sadly, no one involved could even manage that. This hunk of garbage is a throwback to those dreadful PG-13 horror movies from the early 2000s that everyone hoped died off with the first generation iPod.
The idea for ‘Ouija’ isn’t horrible, but the name of the production company responsible pretty much instantly establishes what’s wrong. It’s the latest act of feature-length product placement from Hasbro Studios, whose goal is to sell as many dusty old toys as possible. Such piddling concerns as storytelling, acting or general filmmaking quality are secondary if not tertiary concerns. As a result, the company mandate was to aim the movie squarely at kids who would hopefully race out to buy a Ouija board instantly after a screening, ensuring that the resulting scare picture is as bland and PG as possible.
There’s nothing wrong with PG horror movies in theory, of course. After all, flicks like ‘Poltergeist’, ‘The Changeling’, ‘Drag Me to Hell’ or anything made before ‘Night of the Living Dead’ all thrived off of tasteful, gentle scares. This movie isn’t comparable to those, unfortunately. It’s as lazy, dumb, bland and scare-free of a horror movie as Hollywood as ever made – a boring enough ghost story to make audiences long for the era of bad J-horror remakes and knock-offs, which should have been impossible.
The plot is as basic as it gets. Two girls had a childhood fascination with Oujia boards. In high school, one of them finds one in her attic and promptly kills herself. From there, the other girl and all of her friends try out the Ouija board hoping to get in touch with their recently departed buddy. Sadly, it doesn’t quite work out as planned. Soon, they’re all plagued by the ghost of a little girl with a sewn-shut mouth and her shrieking ghost mom.
Sounds kind of fun, right? Well, you’re wrong. First-time director Stiles White (who also wrote the script with his longtime writing partner Juliet Snowden, who helped him create ‘Boogeyman’, ‘Knowing’ and ‘The Possession’) has no real sense of how to pace a movie or craft an effective on-screen scare. Sure, the cinematography is shadowy, slick and filled with slowly creeping camera moves. However, the techniques are never really exploited to much of a visceral effect, and White seems to be using them purely out of convention and convenience.
The fact that the style and structure of ‘Ouija’ is so pedestrian is a major problem given that the film is designed to be an exercise in suspense and jump scares. That sort of thing might seem easy to pull off when watching an old John Carpenter movie and noticing how few resources were required for him to give audiences the willies. However, filmmakers like Carpenter are immensely talented craftsmen and what they do isn’t easy. Stiles can only pull off the cheapest of jump scares, and the long sequences in between which should gradually build tension and develop an intense atmosphere all fall flat. Toss in a batch of indistinguishable teen leads without even a hint personality, a confused back story, horrible haunting CGI, and a body count limited by ratings requirements, and you’ve got easily the worst horror movie to arrive on screens this year in time for Halloween.
This is a cynically constructed horror movie made by people indifferent to the genre in the hopes of making a quick buck. Folks out there who genuinely love horror movies deserve far better than this swill, especially around Halloween time. Sigh….