Although it is really a board game, which does make Ouija a movie about a board game, using the Ouija board as a narrative device should open up a lot of narrative avenues for film makers. Once the silly teenage characters have completed the first act by opening up a channel for some dark spirit, the producers would have any direction to take the story. But that doesn't happen here. In fact, Ouija feels like a movie made for contractual reasons, it experienced a few false starts and then was sent out to cinemas in this rather cut-down version. So this could be the reason why it isn't very good. But it is professionally produced if not completely uninspired.
I think a certain degree of blame can be placed on the writers, genre specialists, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, whose writing just feels lazy with everything happening in this movie because it is what is supposed to happen in any horror movie. But because of this we get huge narrative leaps, plot points being left unresolved and bizarre character arcs. Lets look no further than the character of Nona for this. She is the cleaning lady, we see her at the start picking up socks and it is clear she isn't a family member. But she is demon-killing expert our teenagers turn too, pushing the movie into its third act because their town apparently has no sympathetic priests or professors of the occult.
Everything is just far too convenient in this movie. Laine, played by Olivia Cooke takes the Ouija board from her dead best friend's bedroom, despite the fact that the pair haven't played with it since they were children. And what a surprise that she hasn't forgotten any of the rules or incantations in that time! And of course, the departed girl, Debbie, played by Shelly Hennig, has left behind hours of footage where we see her discovering and playing with the board. The things in this movie happen because they are narratively convenient, nothing more and nothing less.
Unfortunately not even the cast does much to try and the sell the material to us. They all look like the cast of a CW show, all a little too perfect. Olivia Cooke is really disappointing in the main role as she delivers lines supposedly full of emotional with a disinterested deadpan. Even the guest appearance from Lin Shaye, who played the medium in the Insidious movies, does little to liven things up. Granted I didn't see her betrayal coming but the material is so bad that she has been given, that Shaye doesn't come off very well here at all.
All the scares in the movie are ones we have seen elsewhere. I mean, for what they are, they aren't that bad. In fact the séance scenes aren't that bad, but the viewers can see the killings coming from a million miles away. They just have no impact or little impact. And despite the DVD being given a 15 rating, the cinema release was on a PG, so this instantly lowered its scare factor. It really isn't good.
But Ouija does give a lot its screen time to the creature effects. It is a shame then that the producers spent a lot of time putting makeup on some girl to make her look creepy and very similar to the demon in The Conjuring. And Ouija does rip off a lot of other horror movies, but I think this could have something to do with the writers coming from an overenthusiastic fandom rather than anything else.
So just what was the motivation behind making this movie? Surely it was to increase sales of the Ouija board. If that is so, it is really bad at doing that, this movie tells you that if you mess around with one, all your friends will die, so go a buy one now! And this isn't the message that would persuade anyone who was sane to run out and get one. But maybe Ouija isn't a film for thinking. Maybe it is a film to watch with a few friends, late at night, while drinking...