Posted by Joel Copling on October 24, 2014

This might be damning faint praise on a film that simply isn't very good, but one could do a lot worse than "Ouija." That includes when it comes to the type of throwaway horror fare inherent of the month of October (It is the season of the witch, after all); look no further than the crummy recent "Annabelle." Sure, comparisons are cheap, but what else am I supposed to address in this review? The movie isn't really worth all of those words, though it packs maybe a few more surprises on a visceral level than to what I'm accustomed from this arena of horror (specifically, of the PG-13 variety). For instance, one expects roughly a dozen failed attempts to jar us into a ball of frights, but I wasn't expecting a genuine emotional core.

I don't want to oversell the experience, though. But Debbie's (Shelley Hennig) apparent suicide--but actual death at the hand of the spirit haunting the Ouija board she found--causes quite the devastation in her wake, and I was shocked to find myself feeling sorry for those she left behind, especially considering the death occurs before the twenty-minute mark and we learn next to zilch about her. Then the plot proper begins, and the film settles into the usual routine. Childhood friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) and boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith)--the two, outside of family, most affected by the death--are targets of the spirit board, as are Laine's boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) and sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and their mutual friend Isabelle (Bianca Santos).

So you can see where this is all going. "Ouija" turns from a legitimately effective movie about a set of people coping with their friend's death to a hokey, CGI-reliant attempt at a horror-filled funhouse. The friends are all targets, and yes, at least one of them doesn't survive to the end. Our reason to be invested in these characters goes right out the door when such idiocy is apparent. They all investigate noises that are obviously otherworldly, open doors that have clearly moved by themselves, or (in an adaptation of those sort of cliches) look through the lens of the Ouija board's planchette just to see if the demonic spirit that is stalking really resides somewhere close by. One could do a lot worse than "Ouija;" that's merely the other way of saying one could also do a lot better.

Film Information

Olivia Cooke (Laine Morris), Ana Coto (Sarah Morris), Daren Kagasoff (Trevor), Bianca Santos (Isabelle), Douglas Smith (Pete), Shelley Hennig (Debbie Galardi), Lin Shaye (Paulina Zander), Vivis (Nona).

Directed by Stiles White and written by White and Juliet Snowden.

Rated PG-13 (disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, thematic material).

89 minutes.

Released on October 24, 2014.