It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I played with a Ouija board exactly one time. More on that shortly. What amuses me about the game, and that amusement transfers over to the movie version, is that it proves that there is no such thing as bad publicity. People my age will remember campfire tales and urban legends about unlucky fools who were punished for choosing to contact the deceased using the spirit board trademarked by Hasbro, and if not, I’m sure you remember the 1986 movie “Witchboard,” if only for Tawny Kitaen appearing in it.
Regardless, whenever the Ouija board gets mentioned, something horrible is associated with it. No one ever tells a story about some schlub whose Ouija board told him the Mega Millions numbers, or some lucky lady who rocked the stock market based on tips from the afterworld. It’s always “she was messin’ with that Ouija board and a spirit KILLED her ass!” In all the stories I heard growing up, players wound up as dead as most of the cast of “Ouija.” And yet, people still bought the product. There’s probably even a Ouija app for your phone, so it can kill you before your Apple bill does.
I’m being facetious—sort of. The obvious allure of the Ouija board, and why the “based on the board game by Hasbro” credit appears prominently in this movie, is that these creepy stories are why people bought the product in the first place. In the current economy, Monopoly makes a more appropriate board game upon which to base a horror movie, but for what it is, “Ouija” is better than expected.
I like these kinds of kitchen-sink movies, films where, in an attempt to rattle you, they toss everything at you but the kitchen sink. “Ouija” gets a few extra points because it feels like the filmmakers were actually trying to tell a decent campfire story. The movie has a nice visual polish and a story that covers all the narrative bases of a good spooky bedtime story. Director Stiles White times its jump scares with the knowledge that jump scares are silly and predictable: A gas stove comes on with the sound of a jet engine, mirrors always have bad things reflected in them and a flashlight rolling away always stops rolling to illuminate something unfriendly.