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Ouija (2014)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/3/2015

All Ratings out of

Movie:
1/2
Video:

Audio:
1/2
Extras:


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/24/2015

When the Transformers and G.I. Joe live action films first arrived, it was easy for the naysayers to dismiss the films and claim that it was ridiculous to have a movie based on a toy. However, those in the know knew that the movies would draw heavily from their respective 1980's animated television series. When 2012's Battleship arrived, it was hard for anyone to argue against the idea that the producers had taken a beloved strategy game with no discernible story and turned it into Independence Day on the ocean. What do these movies have in common? Toy giant Hasbro was involved in all of them, and now they are back with Ouija. Can this entry scare up a respectable movie based on a toy?

As Ouija opens, Debbie (Shelley Hennig) decides to stay in for the evening, despite the fact that her best friend, Laine (Olivia Cooke), wanted her to go out. After attempting to destroy a Ouija board, Debbie hangs herself. Laine, along with her other friends, Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), Isabelle (Bianca Santos), Pete (Douglas Smith), and her sister, Sarah (Ana Coto), are shocked by this event and attempt to console one another at the funeral. When Debbie's Mother leaves town, Laine is asked to watch the house, so she gathers her group to meet in the house and attempt to contact Debbie using a Ouija board to find out exactly what happened to her. Everyone is skeptical, but during the ceremony, Laine is able to see a little girl whose mouth is sewn shut. Thus begins an investigation into the history of Debbie's house and questions about what kind of force lives there. Meanwhile, the group realizes that they are being stalked by something evil.

Sometimes we get horror movies which are made by individuals who have no love for the genre, however Co-Writers Stiles White (who also directed) and Juliet Snowden clearly have an interest in the genre, as they previously penned Boogeyman and The Possession. There love for horror movies is really on display in Ouija, as they've tried to pack as many ideas from other scary movies as possible hear. This movie contains shades of Witchboard, The Ring, Final Destination, Insidious, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie takes all of these familiar concepts and boils them into a stew where every few minutes we get a scene which suspiciously reminds of another movie.

This boiling seems to have cooked away all of the flavor however, as the first 2/3 of Ouija is incredibly boring. This is one of those movies where things are happening and we know that they are happening because we can see them happening but it feels like nothing is happening. Again, this may be due to the fact that it all seems so familiar. We watch Laine and her friends mess with the Ouija, do some sleuthing, and bicker, all the while no adults are around to ask these teenagers what in the world they are doing. The movie also suffers from the predictable Ouija cliches -- “You’re moving it!” “No, I’m not!” “Yes, you are!”

The sad thing about this is that things actually pick up some in the third act. The explanation for what is going on has some nice qualities to it and there is actually some action in the finale. However, it is too little, too late, and it sort of makes Ouija feel like two movies in one, as the true horror elements are suddenly ramped up. As White was directing from a script which he co-wrote, the writers can’t blame the director for ruining their story in this instance. However, White is making his directorial debut here and he clearly has a lot to learn about pacing. Sure, you want your ending to be action-packed, but something must happen in the beginning as well.

One can also call into question the use of a Ouija board as a plot device. Do kids today even know what that is? (I know my older sister had one, but that was a long time ago.) And as noted above with the mention of Witchboard, there’s already been movies which focused on the device. And while it’s difficult to recreate the creepy feeling one can get while using a Ouija through a movie, Ouija misses some opportunities to be scary. Many horror fans complain about bland PG-13 horror movies, and for once, I’ll side with them, as Ouija left me bored.

Ouija made me wonder why teenaged girls always have Christmas lights in their bedrooms in movies on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The image has a nice crispness, which lends it noticeable depth. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is also good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The “shock” scenes provide palpable subwoofer effects which enhance the film’s attempt at “jump” scares. The surround sound effects work well during the scenes in which sounds can be heard coming from various parts of the house.

The Ouija Blu-ray Disc contains three extras. "The Spirit Board: An Evolution" (4 minutes) has those involved with the film and some experts discussing the origin of the Ouija and how it has been used over the years. "It put a seance in everyone's house." Nice. "Adapting the Fear" (4 minutes) has the cast and creative team talking about the approach to the material and what it was like using a Ouija board on-set everyday. "Icon of the Unknown" (4 minutes) explains the inner workings of the Ouija board and what makes the planchette move.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long