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“Ouija” movie review

Universal Pictures UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Universal Pictures
UNIVERSAL PICTURES

by Jeff Boudreaux

“Ouija” is the epitome of a film in which the producers dropped every ball they had their  hands on. Blumhouse productions has a monopoly on horror films these days, and just  seems to tack their name onto anything that even remotely resembles a horror film. That’s  why every scary movie claims that their film is from a producer of either “Paranormal  Activity” or “Insidious.” That producer is Jason Blum, who this time forgoes chills in favor  of terribly predictable PG-13 scares.

This brings us to the other production company, Hasbro. Since Ouija boards are a  trademark of the toy company, they just had to be involved in this and it shows. Hasbro is  no stranger to missed opportunities with film properties. 2012’s “Battleship” was dead in  the water from Hasbro’s refusal to include the iconic line “you sank my battleship”  somewhere in the script. It was, after all, what most people only actually remember about  the game. Getting back to “Ouija,” I actually cannot believe that nobody in this film  actually mentions the board by name. Maybe they wanted to keep the wee-gee vs. wee-ja  debate going, who knows. One thing that certainly isn’t up for debate is how bad this  movie truly is.

The film opens up with two little girls, Debbie and Laine, playing with a Ouija board in  seemingly harmless fun. However in the next scene, Teenage Debbie (Shelley Hennig) still  partakes in the game, but doesn’t seem to be having fun anymore. A malevolent spirit  haunts her life and Debbie decides to get rid of it by burning the board in the fireplace.  This only angers the spirit, causing her to possess Debbie and commit suicide. Her best  friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) doesn’t buy the cause of death and investigates with her  friends by attempting to contact her on a Ouija board, of course. The problem is, the teens initially think they are talking to Debbie but quickly realize that it is the spirit of a little girl who died in the house. And then there’s also the spirit of the girl’s mother hanging around which leads the viewer on a very un-scary journey of who is actually haunting the kids and killing them one by one.

This film, if done right, could have been so much better. Instead it is a pastiche of every horror movie cliché done in the last ten years. There are only so many jump-scares and people being dragged off that one can endure without realizing that this has been done way too many times. The biggest problem though is the fact that the ghosts in this movie are dumb and they are not scary. I guess Hasbro didn’t want to associate themselves with a script that involved demons being channeled through the board, but it would have made for much better viewing. As it is, do they really think that a movie where people die as a result of using their board game will skyrocket sales? I guess the jury is still out on that question.

The only saving grace here is the performances of the mostly unknown cast. They are very adequate in what this horrendous script has them do, so kudos to them. Standing out specifically is Olivia Cooke of A&E’s “Bates Motel” and “The Quiet Ones” from earlier this year. She is truly a star in the making; one can only hope that she exercises better judgment in choosing projects once she truly achieves fame.

ouija movie header

The film was written by the team of Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, the latter of which directs. The pair is also responsible for penning 2009’s “Knowing” and “The Possession” from 2012. Since “Knowing” featured Nicolas Cage in a compelling science fiction script and “The Possession” had a Jewish exorcist, it’s safe to say that both of those films had much more to offer than “Ouija.”

It’s unfortunate that the only new horror film opening the week before Halloween happens to be “Ouija” from Universal pictures. I think that the other Hollywood studios might have dropped the ball letting that happen. Regardless, this film will make a lot of money because of the timing. Too bad most moviegoers won’t consult a Ouija board before buying tickets to this film. If they would, the planchette would most certainly point toward “NO”.

½ * (1/2 out of 4 stars)

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