BY BOB GARVER
Here it is: the official scary movie of Halloween 2014. I have to say I’m disappointed. This is a pretty unoriginal slog through murky spiritual territory. The ghosts featured are relatively unconvincing, but I can see being startled by the occasional loud noises. The best thing I can say for this film is that it has enough cheap jump scares that it will make the audience scream a few times, and then they’ll laugh at themselves for screaming. This means that the movie is only effective with a big, screaming audience.
A Ouija board, by the way, is a board game of sorts that allegedly allows players to talk to spirits in other realms. The game is controversial because it supposedly encourages players to dabble in the dark arts. My mother told me that I should consider it an automatic deal-breaker in a friendship if the friend ever wanted me to play with a Ouija board. Clearly they don’t work, because if they did, they would be exploited for a lot more profit than just selling ill-reputed board games.
The movie follows a group of teenagers who use a Ouija board to make contact with a friend who committed suicide. The girl was a
Ouija fanatic, and something about a message she received pushed her over the edge. Her friends decide to reach out to her spirit using the same game. They don’t connect with the friend, but they do find themselves the next targets of the same supernatural danger.
Fans of horror movies know where we’re going from here. There will be a few fake scares that gradually turn into real ones. Most of the characters will maintain a state of denial until it’s too late. Silent scenes will be interrupted by bumps in the night. One by one the characters will get picked off in PG-13 fashion (after the original victim there are five members in the group, so that should give you an indication of the body count). The promiscuous member of the group will probably be the first to go. The characters will investigate darkened houses and never turn on the lights (or the electricity will go out at the worst possible time, ditto for flashlight batteries). They’ll split up and individually encounter horrors that the others won’t believe. The spirits will do little more than manipulate furniture and shriek. And of course, nobody will be able to destroy the stupid board.
I should be saying that the movie is a glorified commercial for Ouija boards, but that isn’t the case. At no point in the movie do Ouija boards look cool. They only summon murderous ghosts bent on killing the players. This movie can’t even be bothered to make the game look enticing. A better horror movie would let the kids have fun with the board at first (“Nice talking to you, Mr. Andre the Giant sir”) and then things spin out of control. Nope, we get evil, evil, and more evil. I’m not saying that I’d be supportive of a Ouija craze, just that the movie fails at its supposed goal.
“Ouija” was the #1 movie in the country the weekend before Halloween, and it will almost definitely retain its spot over Halloween weekend by extension. Then its numbers will fall off a cliff. It gives people an excuse to go to the movies on Halloween and scream and laugh. It makes for a fun party, even if the movie itself is lousy. You’ll remember going to see this movie more than you’ll remember anything about it.
(“Ouija” is rated PG- 13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, and thematic material. Its running time is only 89 minutes. Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.)