Not a Clue
Ouija (2014): 5 out of 10: A teenage girl (Olivia Cooke) house sits for her best friend’s mother (Robyn Lively) after her best friend (Shelley Hennig) commits suicide in the house. Olivia finds an old Ouija board and sees if she can communicate with her late friend with the help of her bratty little sister (Ana Coto) and her high school chums.
Jump scares and PG-13 death scenes soon ensue and the sisters have to unlock the mystery behind haunting of the house with the help of matricidal institutionalized mental patient and regular in these types of films, Lin Shaye.
The Good: Ouija is a perfectly serviceable movie for its intended audience. That audience being a bunch of eleven-year-old girls at a slumber party. Ouija is scary but not too scary. All the teenagers are clean cut, have loving relationships with boyfriends with no implied sex, don’t drink, don’t smoke and they floss regularly. (Seriously, there are a lot of teenagers doing proper dental hygiene scenes in the film.)
The film shows its age a bit as all the teenagers are white, straight, good looking and in their mid-twenties. So the current generation of eleven-year-olds may wonder a touch about that. They also may question why everyone in the film has such perfectly clean and well-decorated houses that are so large and so parental unit free. But all in all, Ouija is perfect slumber party fodder that won’t cause nightmares or angry calls from other parents a few days later.
The Bad: So why did the critics universally hate Ouija? One reason is that they are not eleven-year-old girls. Critics in all media tend to hate things teenage girls love. (Cough Twilight Cough) I am not saying the critics are always wrong mind you (Again Cough Twilight Cough) but they hardly have thier pulse on the tastes of our nation’s female youth.
The other problem is that they were at the theater, not a slumber party. As a theatrical release, Ouija is a bit of a lightweight. The movie clearly cost almost nothing to make. Filmed over a few weeks with some TV actors and a couple of suburban Los Angeles homes.
They also apparently filmed almost the entire movie twice as test audiences hated the original film (the entire plot is different and some main characters such as Lin Shaye were not even in the original shoot.) Despite being filmed twice, there is no scene in Ouija that screams theatrical release.
Also, while there are some actual nice twists in Ouija, the film has what I would consider a leisurely pace for such a short film. Ouija’s habit of having complete silence for minutes at a time to set up a jump scare does not help matters.
Once again I have to ask the obvious question: how the hell do people with cats in their house get scared by ghosts? While I was watching this movie, my fat orange tom Ripley knocked over (Or ran into. He has always been a bit of a spaz.) a potted plant, which was scarier than anything the movie managed to do. While the movie set it up with its walking around the darkish house in complete silence bits, the most effective jump scare in Ouija was by Ripley in the lanai.
There’s a weird scene where Bianca A. Santos, who is hesitant to do the Ouija stuff, refuses to leave her house and the next thing you know, she’s doing the Ouija stuff again with everyone else in the haunted house. Clearly, there needed to be a bridge scene where they somehow convinced her to leave her house and do this stupid ouija thing again.
Speaking of strange character arcs. We have the bratty younger sister Ana Coto who clearly is a dangerous seed as she wears black nail polish and goes for rides in cars with boys. Protective older sister trying to prevent her younger sibling from being molested has to take her with her to the seance. Then Ouija simply drops the subplot and the younger sister does not differ from the rest of the friends and the sister rivalry relationship is simply not mentioned again.
This seems a clear result of the extensive reshoots and in reality it is probably for the best as Ana Coto was in her mid-twenties when they filmed this and her underaged tween who needs to be protected was unintentionally hilarious.
In Conclusion: Ouija is a perfectly serviceable film for its audience. Those coming in looking for Insidious: Chapter 2 are in for a disappointment. But as something to put on when you have a house filled with eleven-year-olds. It does the job with a minimum of fuss.