by Adam Riske
I fell asleep for a solid 20 minutes during Ouija. It is that lifeless. Luckily, there was a screening that began 30 minutes after the one I was in, so I left one auditorium and went into another to see the 20 minutes I had missed. The inside of my eyelids were more entertaining. Ouija’s biggest problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. It’s as if Jumanji thought it was The Accused. There is no fun to be had in Ouija, not even the trashy horror kind.
My expectations going into Ouija were muted to begin with, but I was hoping to be surprised. I was game for Ouija, so to speak. This is the type of movie that no one expects to be good and it’s so disappointing that somehow the filmmakers have made a movie that rests underneath those already low expectations. This is the type of movie that could have been a calling card for a director to bring something interesting to the table. Ouija could have been edgy, over the top, energetic fun -- anything to show a director’s authorship -- but, alas, it is the opposite of those things.
I can’t stress enough how lazy and stupid Ouija is. For example, there’s a sequence where a character is riding his bicycle in daylight and stops to walk it through a dark tunnel instead of riding it through. Ok, so that’s weird, but not unforgiveable, right? But then there’s a jump scare with a runner jogging through the tunnel (so it’s not that dark) and later the character with the bike magically has a flashlight to illuminate a message for him that has been scribed on the wall of the tunnel. There is no reason this character would just so happen to have a flashlight on him. It’s a full flashlight! It’s not like it’s just a keychain flashlight. Another bizarre sequence shows a character saying goodbye to her dad (before he goes away on a trip, thus leaving the teenagers unattended for the rest of the movie). They are outside and she is carrying an open umbrella but IT IS NOT RAINING! This sequence made no sense to me at all. I looked around and I didn’t see any rain anywhere, not hard rain or even faint rain. What the fuck are the filmmakers thinking? How could they have an oversight like this? Why did she have an umbrella in the first place?
The performances are a bit dull, but it’s not the fault of the performers. They are given nothing to play by this script nor any interesting character beats. They are operating at the discretion of the plot and nothing else. They are ciphers.
Ouija feels quaint by comparison to today’s batch of horror movies. It feels similar to one of those Americanized versions of J-Horror that were in vogue at the time of The Ring and The Grudge, where it was a horror mystery (with random characters conveniently in mental institutions to be able to provide backstory) more than anything else. This one most closely resembles One Missed Call to me, but even that movie was better than Ouija. Ouija is not as good as those three aforementioned movies because it doesn’t share their suspense or ominous mood and macabre style and it’s also lethargically paced.