"Ouija" is a dead-teenager movie aimed squarely at a teen audience.
Universal’s effort to reclaim its place as the Home for Horror takes a step backward with this duller-than-dull 89 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Frankly, the board game is scarier, but only if you break the rules.
"Never play alone … never play in a graveyard … always say ‘Good-bye.’"
As kids, Debbie (Shelley Hennig) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) knew that. But as a teen, Debbie’s picked up a board, toyed with the magical "unseen hand" planchette, with its eye hole for spying ghosts. Next thing you know, she’s hung herself.
Laine is beside herself. Well, not exactly. Cooke, the star of this cast of pretty bland young things, rarely suggests much emotion at all. And the others take their lead from her.
Because of course there are others. Laine wants some closure, so she picks up Debbie’s board, rounds up her boyfriend (Daren Kagasoff), her Goth-brat sister (Ana Coto), the dead girl’s beau (Douglas Smith) and the exotic Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos) for a little seance.
When they chant, "As friends we gather, hearts are true, spirits near, we call to you," and doors creak open and chairs slide away from the table, kids being kids, they don’t take the hint.
Laine’s housekeeper, Nona (Vivis Colombetti), adds a warning.
"Do not go seeking answers from the dead."
Death and terror ensue.
Three horror movies (she was in "The Signal," "The Quiet Ones") and one horror TV series ("Bates Motel") into her career, and poor Ms. Cooke still doesn’t show any sign she has what it takes to become a Scream Queen. She treats the supernatural goings on, the shock of seeing friends die and the lack of adults aware of what the kids are going through with little more than a pert little shrug.
Nobody else makes much of an impression, even horror vet and studio chief sibling Lin Shaye ("2001 Maniacs").
The effects are generally as simple as the far superior ghost story "Annabelle," which looks like "Psycho" when compared to "Ouija," a cynical attempt to spend almost no money and cash in on board game sales.
But seriously, who’d buy that game after this? And after "Ouija" and "Dracula Untold," who will buy Universal as a serious home for horror? Tod Browning and Bela Lugosi are rolling in their graves.
Review by Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers