Fairly appalling flapdoodle starring a bunch of generically pretty, “good-enough-for-TV” actors you’ve never heard of as teens ill-advisedly screwing around with a Ouija board. If these bozos knew anything about 1980s pop culture, they’d have seen Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard (1986) and known this was a bad idea. So, for that matter, might the filmmakers, who clearly have seen Witchboard, since they base so much of Ouija on the perils of using the board solo. (The tagline for Witchboard was “Don’t play it alone.”) Actually, had they more closely followed Witchboard, they at least wouldn’t have ended up with something this bad. I’m not saying Witchboard is exactly good, but it had the common sense not to take itself so mind-numbingly seriously. It remembered to be fun. Ouija is never much fun. This mishmash of Witchboard, The Ring (2002) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) is mostly boring. OK, it’s also stupid, but that’s not the killer that boring is.
Horror movie scribe Stiles White (who also penned this with writing partner Juliet Snowden) has here turned director. In his favor, the film looks good — in large part because it more or less adheres to the look (if not the stylishness) of James Wan’s Insidious films. It may be pretty weak tea for the Halloween movie of the year, but it at least looks like a movie and not like the latest jittery installment of Paranormal Stupidity. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for the fact that White has no sense of pacing, nor does he evidence much sense of … let’s call it occasion. By this I mean there is no bigness to the movie’s theoretical big moments. They’re so offhand that you’d barely guess they were horrific without the musical stings cluing you in on the fact. It’s not the fact that Ouija is rated PG-13 that it’s so lame — The Ring and both Insidious movies are PG-13. It’s that it’s so flat and so poorly constructed.
After the movie’s opening sequence — a scene of no shock value whatever if you’ve seen the trailer — the damned movie takes forever to get going. Of course, once it gets going, it isn’t all that much more interesting. It doesn’t help that it seems to take place in some weird vacuum where all the adults are conveniently absent. That the parents of the dead girl have left the scene is reasonable enough, but when our main character’s father leaves indefinitely on some kind of business trip, it’s pushing things. For that matter, since said main character has been left in charge of the dead girl’s house, it’s scarcely credible that she never bothers to get the lights fixed after they go out at seance number one. (Yes, I know, it makes things spookier.)
The film barely springs to life with the discovery of the house’s secret and the introduction of Insidious veteran Lin Shaye as a murderess who’s been locked away in a surprisingly-easy-to-breach madhouse. It’s not that Shaye is really given anything of note to do, but she brings a touch of class and melodrama to the proceedings. Mostly, the movie just plods along to an unsatisfying conclusion — and the inevitable promise of a sequel. That promise is quite the scariest aspect of the film, since it’s on track to be the big winner at the box office this weekend. Probably the best I can say is that while Ouija is marginally worse than Annabelle, it annoyed me less. I don’t think that qualifies as praise, though. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images and thematic material.