By Chaz Lipp
A mere 12 hours after viewing the new Blu-ray release of Ouija, I had almost forgotten I’d watched it. With a budget of $5 million, Michael Bay as a producer, and distribution by Universal Pictures, writer-director Stiles White (a visual effects veteran making his directorial debut) crafted a horror flick seemingly designed to put audiences to sleep. Everything about the film is bland, as if White and co-writer Juliet Snowden were intent on making sure nothing the slightest bit interesting crept into the proceedings.
Unless you’re especially superstitious, there’s really nothing inherently frightening about Hasbro’s Ouija board game. Some movies have effectively incorporated the toy as but one component of a bigger plot (The Exorcist comes to mind immediately), but as the central “villain” it just doesn’t work. When Debbie (Shelley Hennig) is driven by the Ouija-driven spirits who haunt her, lifelong friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) begins holding group séances with friends in an attempt to discover the game’s secrets.
Borrowing pages from a gallery of recent horror releases (including by not limited to Paranormal Activity, The Apparition, The Possession, Sinister), Laine, her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), sister Sarah (Ana Coto), and other friends encounter the spirit of an evil mother, Mrs. Zander (Claudia Katz), and the child she tortured. It’s humorless, not very scary, and – with a PG-13 rating – devoid of graphic imagery and/or nudity. It raked in a fair amount of money, all things considered ($50 million domestically, nearly as much overseas), but it doesn’t take any chances.
The Blu-ray itself looks and sounds great; not surprising given it’s a Universal release. The DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix just might be the highlight of the entire affair, given its abundance of immersive audio effects and powerful LFE activity. The special features are exceedingly light: a trio of four-minute featurettes (two of which are Blu-ray exclusives).
There are too many more creative horror films to choose from to waste time with Ouija. Even its creepiest moments (the disturbed child of torturous Mrs. Zander glimpsed through the Ouija planchette’s small, circular window) are undercut by the prevailing boredom-inducing laziness of the storytelling.
Images: Universal Pictures