Ouija is the touching biography of Mario’s brother Lou Ouija. We all know the struggles that family faced against Koopa, but Ridley Scott’s vision made it more palpable than the history books ever could. No, it’s a ouija board movie and the problem with Ouija isn’t that it’s based on a board game. Ouija boards are things that existed so it’s just a coincidence that Hasbro manufactures them too. The problem with Ouija is simple cliched storytelling, boring and bad dialogue.
Debbie (Shelly Henning) tries to destroy her Ouija board after a session but it comes back and makes her kill herself. So her best friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) gets her friends together to use the Ouija board to try to contact Debbie. Scary stuff ensues, like you’ve seen in every other evil spirit movie. It could have been any other movie that they just decided to make the Ouija board the device that unleashed the spirit.
Ouija is just no fun. It plays the serious suicide grief movie when everyone is mourning Debbie. It’s doing no favors to bring gravitas to Debbie’s death because we didn’t know her. She’s just the Janet Leigh part, if you even mistakenly assumed she was going to be the star of the movie. So it’s even more blatant that the film is trying to take death “seriously.” It’s still a horror movie. Get to the fun stuff.
It’s never fun, as the jump scares are cheap. Hey, loud noise always startles people. No big accomplishment there. The deaths are simple and uncreative. The ghosts are the same old blue colored screaming spirits. It’s all rather joyless, but not in an intense visceral horror kind of way. It’s just mediocre.
Ouija is actually more blatantly mediocre than Annabelle. While it’s more polished and checks all the boxes, it’s less sincere about trying to tell an original story. Annabelle was at least part of a franchise, trying to connect in some way, so there’s that sliver of relevance to something that’s way better. Ouija is happy to tell the same ghost story. They even throw a little found footage in there when Laine watches some of Debbie’s old videos.
The dialogue screams “reshoot” or some sort of studio note or problem. Characters keep reminding each other of what’s already happened, what we’ve already seen. “You made us play. Now [SPOILER]is dead.” Yes, we saw that happen. A school counselor recaps the deaths we’ve already witnessed. This cannot be the screenwriters’ intention. These are experienced talent who have created good movies before, and they know the genre. They would not tread water like this, unless someone above said, “Change this, and add this line to make sure everyone remembers this happened.” They keep inventing new rules as the movie goes on and the twist is predictable.
Lin Shaye shows up for two scenes and she brings it. Other than her, even though it’s technically proficient, I can’t think of any reason to watch Ouija, even if it’s on cable. There are worse made movies, but those reveal some interesting attempts and failures. This is just competent enough to remind you they had all the resources, but stuck to the most generic version of the story.