Movies based on board games come packed with expectations of shittiness. Hasbro teamed up with Universal just a few years back for the monumentally floppish Battleship. Even with Peter Berg at the helm and a budget that ballooned over 200 million dollars, tanking critical response and disinterested audiences sunk Battleship. The lackies at the Hasbro Studios (which I still can’t believe actually exists) returned to the drawing board to scheme up their next monstrosity. To my, and many like me’s, chagrin, the Has-bros made a smart move. They decided to proceed with a no-name cast, micro-budgeted horror adaptation, because the horror audience en masse isn’t known for being the discerning bunch and so might as well stick it to ’em. The result is Oujia, a puked up mess of uninspired drivel.
To my further dismay, on a uber-tight five million dollar budget, Oujia is on track to be a money-making success before it even opens. Because if you nickel ‘n’ dime your way through a horror production, it’s bound to make them ducats. However, this being Hollywood, Ouija‘s minuscule budget wasn’t always the plan of attack. The first budgetary pitch reportedly asked for a hundred million dollars. That’s a hundred million dollar bills, a million Benjamins, five million twenties. Can you imagine what you would do with five million twenty dollar bills?! To put that in terms of movies, that’s five times what it took to make The Conjuring, eight times more than The Exorcist and 6,666 times what it cost to make Paranormal Activity. For a movie about a board with letters on it. Following massive financial losses on Battleship just two years ago. The nerve of these people. Their thought process is literally insanity.
But taking to the script like the Bay Harbor Butcher, the budget was slashed to ribbons and the suits were saved. Oujia 2: The Oujiaer is, tragically, all but assured. At the very least, it will result in a word that includes all the vowels (spooky!)
The plot, if you can call it that, of Oujia is white bread dipped in milk. The supposed-to-be frightening tale introduces us to two young girls diddling around with the titular Hasbro classic. They start by teaching us the rules of the game as if the role of the movie is partially to entertain and partially to instruct one how to play with an actual Oujia board. Because instruction manuals are hard.
You can never play Oujia alone. You must circle the board with the Planchette once for each player. You recite the words. You always say goodbye. Simple. Not that breaking any of the rules (they’re all broken at one point or another) has any implications on the events of the film nor do screenwriters Juliet Snowden and Stiles White ever try to, you know, make the rules of the game a relevant function of the movie’s world. To do so would require a tidbit of effort. Like the rest of the film, it’s just so dumb.
Doe-eyed, baby-faced Olivia Cooke plays Laine Morris, a highschooler whose best friend, Debbie (Shelley Hennig), just offed herself (Christmas lights noose FTW.) Or so the newspapers say. We however know that what transpired is no ordinary suicide. She was cursed! (*Gasp*)
Attempting to contact her deceased friend, Laine assembles a group of talentless actors, er, friends to summon Debbie to get some closure. You know because peps who be committing suicide really just wanna chat it up. Together they all must perform thankless roles that involve such acting feats as 1.) looking concerned 2.) putting two fingers on a Planchette 3.) looking scared 4.) wearing white contacts and 5.) looking frightened. They hack out their lines like a broken printer, spitting and coughing up ink. Bad performance showdown: Lin Shaye versus Douglas Smith. Go! Ahhh, Lin Shaye wins again! Crown her the queen of horror movie dunces.
Yada yada yada, the kids become cursed and terrifying things start to happen to them. Well actually all that really happens is the phrase, “Hi Friend” begins to appear somewhere near each of the victims. Wait a minute, that’s not scary at all! I want my money back! (says the smart people in the theater.)
When the cast of characters are not becoming welcomed with a howdy doody from the dark side, they spit out mind-numbing exposition or, you guessed it!, play more board games. And again, I have to dredge up the script to wag my finger at some more. It is just so, so bad. I’ve seen random word generators come up with more interesting train of thoughts. Cards Against Humanity haikus are more sensible than this ejected, aborted pile of words. Nearly every second of its 90 minute run time is as boring and lifeless as hour seven of Monopoly.
White, who also directed, handles the “scary” beats with a rubber chicken. He’s so caught up in not paying attention that he even misses those easy peasy moments for jump scares. Seriously, all you need is a loud sound and to quickly jolt the camera and people will go, “Ah!” It’s truly a testament to his awfulness behind the camera that he isn’t able to get one peep from the audience in the entirety of this effortless circlejerk of a film.
When all is said and done, Ouija will make over five times its budget on opening weekend and it will see a sequel. That fact alone is the true horror. With absolutely dreadful acting, a scare-free, asleep at the wheel script and directing that would be shameful for even the direct-to-video crowd, there is nothing about Oujia that is not remarkably bad.