Ouija Mostly Plays As An Uninspired PG-13 Horror Movie Saved By Its Prequel

One of the more interesting sidenotes for horror in 2014 just happened to be two movies that bombed with critics but scored at the box office. Neither Annabelle nor Ouija were remotely good scary movies. And the fact that they both got follow-ups isn’t a shock – they made money. However, each of these movies got a prequel that wasn’t just better, but actually a damn good horror movie. Of course, Ouija had a lot less to work with given that its origins are a Hasbro boardgame. Maybe critics would have been more impressed if Blumhouse had decided to base a movie on Mr. Potato Head.


After her best friend Debbie shockingly kills herself, Laine Morris is determined to find answers. What she finds left behind in Debbie’s house is an on old Ouija board they played with as children. Hoping to connect with Debbie in the afterlife, Laine and her friends use the Ouija board to communicate with their friend. Someone answers their call. But it may not be Debbie. And now that a portal is open they may not be able to stop what’s coming after them.

Ouija Trades In The ‘Loud Noises Are Scary’ School of Horror

On just a technical level, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Ouija. The production values are quite good, it doesn’t overstay its welcome running at a trim 89 minutes, and it’s certainly not boring. Perhaps what’s wrong with this Blumhouse release is just how consistently underwhelming it is. Director Stiles White – who shares writing duties with wife Juliet Snowden (The Possession) – knows his way around genre films. As a special effects artist, White worked on a slate of impressive projects from Interview With a Vampire to Lake Placid. Yet while Stiles keeps things moving along, they never feel like they are ever going anywhere all that interesting.

Perhaps what’s wrong with this Blumhouse release is just how consistently underwhelming it is.

Simply put, Ouija is a cardboard PG-13 horror cutout that offers little to experienced horror fans. Aside from a couple of impressive horror designs in the latter half, there’s little here that looks or feels scary. Stiles fails to generate any sort of suspense from a story that can’t escape familiarity. We know exactly where things are going even if our characters seem clueless about what a Ouija board does in horror movies. This is the sort of horror movie that operates under the principal that loud noises equal scares. While White keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, he struggles to stage effective scares. Instead, what ends up on screen looks and feels telegraphed.

Ouija Lets Down Its Cast With Paper-Thin Characters and Lack of Common Sense

In addition to a lack of scares, Ouija suffers from a derivative screenplay that feels predictable and lacks interesting, or well-defined, characters. Though Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) is perfectly fine in the lead role, she’s not given much of an opportunity to stand out. Like the rest of the movie, her character feels like a generic protagonist that could anchor just about PG-13 horror movie. None of the supporting cast remotely stands out. By the end of the movie, audiences may have trouble remembering any of the characters’ names. Adults apparently don’t exist in the world of Ouija.

None of the supporting cast remotely stands out. By the end of the movie, audiences may have trouble remembering any of the characters’ names.

And neither does common sense. Much of Snowden and White’s story requires characters to make bad choices or show a lack of logic. This narrative shortcoming along with the flimsy premise leave this horror movie a lot like empty calories. Arguably, Ouija’s other biggest problem is its poorly defined villain. Though the prequel, Ouija: The Origin of Evil, would fix this problem, Ouija spends so much time trying to swerve audiences that it invests its ‘evil presence’ with much of an actual presence. It helps to have Lin Shaye (Insidious: The Last Key, Dead End) in a small but key role – you can always count on Shaye to class up at least the scenes she’s in.

Ouija is Watchable, But Dull and Forgettable Horror

Give credit to Jason Blum and Mike Flanagan for bothering to follow up this lame horror effort. Or maybe credit the box office returns that justified the prequel. Regardless Ouija is the kind of horror movie that gave a bad name to PG-13 genre fare. Derivative plotting, bland characters, and a total lack of scares, Ouija is a lazy studio effort that feels like an assembly-line production despite coming from Blumhouse. If you find loud noises scary, you’ll find this one to be a good time waster. Otherwise save it for a pre-teen sleepover.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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