I was thinking of sub-titling this review “What To Expect When You’re Expecting Nothing,” or something equally less-than-clever, but it just seemed too damn obvious — I mean, how many of us were expecting 2014’s Ouija to actually be any good?
Let’s face it — Hasbro inking a deal with Michael Bay’s Plantinum Dunes to make a series of movies based on their various board games is probably a pretty stupid idea for a number of reasons — not the least of which is that Clue probably just plain can’t be topped in the “best-board-game-movie-of-all-time” category — but what can I say? While there was no way in hell I was going to spring to see Ouija when it was out in theaters, I added it to my Netflix DVD queue when it came out simply because I like to punish myself from time to time by sticking my head into the toilet bowl of PG-13 “horror.” I guess I’m just masochistic like that.
All that being said, director Stiles White (who co-wrote the film’s screenplay along with Juliet Snowden) manages to under-perform here even though the bar was set exeptionally low. We’ve all seen the “malignant spirit haunts teenagers” trope done to death, to be sure, but rarely is everyone so clearly and plainly going through the motions as they are in Ouija. It’s like somebody figured out how to put celluloid on Xanax and then sat back to see what the end result would be.
Speaking of Xanax, Olivia Cooke, of sleazy prime-time soap Bates Motel, certainly looks and acts like she’s on it — she absolutely can’t carry a film, as she ably demonstrates in her starring turn here as nominal heroine Laine Morris. She has precisely one facial expression — the “concerned as shit” look — and can’t even manage to get away from it entirely when she’s supposed to be smiling and looking happy. Not that she’s got a whole lot to be happy about, mind you, given that her best friend, Debbie Galardi (Shelley Hennig) apparently just killed herself after playing around with a Ouija board (hint to Hasbro, by the way — if the primary goal of your newfound motion picture enterprise is to move more of your product, as I’m assuming it is, suggesting that said product actually works in terms of conjuring up evil ghosts maybe isn’t the smartest idea). So, like any intrepid young protagonist, the charisma-free zone that is Laine decides that she’ll get her boyfriend, Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), their friend Isabelle (Bianca A, Santos), and dead Debbie’s (now ex-, I suppose) boyfriend, Pete (Douglas Smith) together to hold a seance at the scene of the crime. When her perpetual-pain-in-the-ass younger sister, Sam (Ana Coto), proves once again that she can’t be left home alone while their dad is out of town, she gets dragged along to the party, as well.
I fucked around with Ouija boards plenty when I was younger, but one thing this flick taught (a term I use very loosely, I assure you) me is that if you look through the plastic-coated hole in the center of the planchette, you’re supposed to be able to see whatever ghost it is you’ve disturbed from their slumber. Laine certainly sees one, and from there on out, our plucky young crew is put through the dullest, most un-involving “living hell” you’re ever likely to see play out before your eyes — suffice to say, the haunted shit they’re all being subjected to ties in to a (yawn!) ghastly crime committed at Debbie’s house many years ago. And in order for the spirits to rest, they’ve gotta (yawn again!) put things right.
Further details are probably pointless here, but that’s okay — so is the movie itself. I’ve been sitting here scratching my head trying to think of one thing Ouija has to recommend in its favor, but I gotta be honest — I’m drawing a complete blank. The acting’s bad, the story’s stupid and predictable, the “scares” are anything but scary, and the whole thing is a rancid mess.
That may sound harsh, but trust me when I say that, if anything, I’m actually underselling how genuinely lame this thing is. I almost didn’t even bother to review it because it was too easy a target, but I figured that if I could warn off at least one other person from seeing it, then I could chalk it up as my good deed for the day.Sure, the picture and sound quality on the DVD are both fine (I can’t really comment on the extras because the disc I got from Netflix was one of those “bare-bones” rental versions, sorry), but so what? It’s a brand new movie, the technical specs should be flawless.
So — what do you get when you go into a movie expecting nothing? In the case of Ouija, precisely that.