"Ouija," the new horror film from director/co-writer Stiles White, is based on the spooky board game that claims to commune with the spirit world. But no special equipment is needed to hear from movie critics, who have made it clear they find "Ouija" to be an uninspired scarer and a curious bit of marketing.
The Universal Pictures film — which has a long development history, including with director McG — is the latest Hollywood collaboration with Hasbro, manufacturer of blockbuster-spawning toys such as Transformers. The studio hopes it can replicate earlier success with a spinoff of the popular spirit-world game. Critics, though, remain unmoved.
In a review for The Times, Robert Abele calls "Ouija" a "tie-in fright flick only a group of toy and movie executives could summon from around a conference table, a blah imitation of PG-13 haunted house movies like 'Paranormal Activity' and 'Insidious.'"
Abele adds that "The ghost scenario that [the movie's] boring, CW-ready, 'Scooby-Doo' gang uncovers isn't nearly as shocking as the blase attitude they have toward friends dying off or that some know to call the game's circular-windowed arrow a 'planchette.'"
The New York Times' Ben Kenigsberg writes, "October may be the month when movie stove tops light themselves, but the oven range in 'Annabelle' had style — and popcorn to boot. 'Ouija' offers only the usual plot tropes (a house with a history, a twisted mother, a girl with her mouth sewn shut) and even the usual cast. (Lin Shaye, from 'Insidious,' puts in an appearance.)"
He continues: "What 'Ouija' lacks in wit and originality, it makes up in volume — a trademark of the 'Transformers' director Michael Bay, who is one of the producers. The substitution of loud noises for atmosphere couldn't quell what was at times an audibly dismissive Times Square preview crowd. If only someone had been in charge of quality control."
USA Today's Claudia Puig says, "Even if the Ouija board accessory is shoehorned into the picture, you've seen this movie before. Many times." The film "is all cheap jolts and no real spookiness. Ghostly images appear occasionally amid excessive exposition. But the movie commits the cardinal sin for horror flicks: It's not frightening. It's a tedious and familiar teen drama."
Entertainment Weekly's Kyle Anderson writes, "The early part of 'Ouija' has some creepy bits that thankfully don't rely on simple sound gags. And it has the decency to not be a found-footage movie. But once the plot machinations kick in, it becomes kind of goofy, even for a film about malevolent ghosts who possess people through a board game." In the end, he says, it's "best left on the shelf."
AV Club's Katie Rife adds, "'Ouija' feels like a film made under contractual obligation. … It's professionally produced but completely uninspired." The script is "formulaic to the point of laziness," and "the cast also isn't doing much to sell the material."
Like many of her fellow critics, Rife also notes that the movie serves as "a terrible ad for Ouija boards," since it suggests that playing with one can get you and your friends killed. Whoops.