Escape to the Movies
Ouija - Just A Lame Cash-In

Bob Chipman | 31 Oct 2014 12:00
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Ouija is just another formulaic and dull horror movie.


Oh don't even start. Halloween is on a Friday this year so they didn't release anything big because everyone is just gonna be out partying anyway.

Anyway. I'll say this much: If you're going to make a movie out of a board game... well, don't. But if you're going to, I suppose there are worse places to start than the Ouija Board?

The original Ouija Boards first showed up in the 1890s, an attempt to mass-market the so-called "talking boards" that had been popularized by the Spiritualism craze that swept the U.S. in the era. It remained popular for decades, and while there were always urban legends about genuinely dangerous "things" being conjured up by playing with it it never gained a negative foothold in the popular imagination until the 1970s, where one appeared in early scenes of The Exorcist. The specter of pop-demonology has hovered over the product ever since, and while it continues to be sold in toy stores it's also been the subject of protests - both from religious believers who consider it to be a tool of the devil to legitimate spiritualists and mediums who think it either trivializes what they do or irresponsibly places spiritual power in the hands of amateurs.

See? There's actually a lot of material there! There's conceivably a pretty decent, interesting foundation for a spooky Halloween-time diversion to be had in marrying that history and the pop-culture omnipresence of this and other "occult"-oriented parlor games to a basic horror movie narrative.

But instead we've got Ouija, which opts to simply use the titular board as little more than a mcguffin prop for a bog-standard ghost movie that remixes the most commonly ripped-off elements of Insidious, The Ring and The Grudge into the most generic form possible.

The setup isn't bad: A group of close-knit high school friends are mourning the shocking suicide of one in their group, and the deceased's best friend happens to find a Ouija board among her personal effects. She's already having trouble accepting that the suicide even was a suicide, and playing Ouija was something they'd enjoyed as children, so she decides they should all play and try to contact their dead friend. Instead, they make contact with a malevolent specter that latches onto them and won't let go.

Like I said, not a bad idea - there's a lot of places you can go, and I'm weirdly enamored of the idea that a ghost might show up at a seance or conjuring and pretend to be the ghost of someone else entirely since, y'know, invisible. That's actually pretty creepy. But once the film pulls that particular trigger it has nowhere to go but start checking off every damn horror cliche in the book with about as much enthusiam as a McDonalds' employee making Big Mac #453 for the day.

Stuck in a haunted house? Make sure you split up!

Are there two or more ghosts? The one that seems like you should either help or trust it is probably the "bad" one!

If someone with knowledge of the situation is really, really helpful, they're probably bad guys!

Never look anything up until after the point where it mightve helped!

And even then, the film is totally devoid of the one thing that can usually make even a bad horror film passable: There's no scares, and no imagination when it comes to the bloodletting. The ghosts are dull retreads we've seen a hundred times before and the "kills" are so lame that when one guy dies from getting tangled in a swimming-pool cover, it qualifies as almost a pleasant change of pace from the rest.

But the plain fact is Ouija is a regular old bad movie: A cheap cash-in trying even less hard than you'd expect because it's angling for brand-recognition and a Halloween release date to take care of its ticket sales - and nobody needed a spirit board to tell them that was a safe bet.

Bottom Line: Makes Witchboard look like... um... any of the sequels to Witchboard, I guess?

Recommendation: Maybe if it's still hot out where you are and the theater is air-conditioned. Maybe.

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