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Movie Review

As kids, best friends Debbie and Laine used to play with Laine's Ouija board. It was merely a creepy little diversion since neither of them really believed the game was connecting them to "other side." So it was just the eerie idea that some ghostly figure had its invisible hand on the planchette with theirs—moving the plastic pointer from letter to letter on the board—that kept them going at it, giggling all the while.

The rules they played by? (Laine had picked them up somewhere and said they should never be broken.) You never played alone. You never played in a graveyard. You always said goodbye at the end of each session. And you began with these words: "As friends we've gathered, hearts are true. Spirits near, we call to you."

It was all just fun and, well, games, right? They figured, why would calling out to dead spirits be a problem?

A few years later, Debbie was cleaning out her dusty old attic when she stumbled upon a very old Ouija board and some other creepy remnants. This hand-painted board had a planchette carved out of wood. And the pieces were so antique-looking and cool that Debbie just had to dust them off and give them a try. She even decided to record herself using the board while sitting in her bedroom. Alone.

Debbie had forgotten. She'd broken rule No. 1.

And then bad things started happening.

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Positive Elements

Things do go sideways at the film's beginning and very, very bad things happen to Debbie. And Laine—knowing nothing about the old Ouija board—does mourn her friend's sudden passing. She and several of Debbie's other good friends wish they could have done more to help her.

Spiritual Content

When the friends discover Debbie's antique board, then, and all come together in a séance-like Ouija session, it's initially to talk to Debbie, express their regrets and say goodbye. But that gathering lets loose all manner of dark spiritual powers.

Indeed, it's suggested that conduits can be formed between the world of the living and the land of the dead, and that a Ouija board can be one end of that phantasmal link. The teens are told that such connections can be very difficult to break. They look through the crystal "eye" of the planchette and see screaming ghosts. In one case, as a girl looks, her eye turns white—covered by some ghostly scale—and she becomes possessed by a spirit.

The group discovers that a variety of spiritualist and occult rituals were once performed at Debbie's house. Doors open and close by themselves there. Furniture moves, stove burners ignite, etc. The ghosty creature responsible writes out messages to the teens and eventually begins attacking them.

Sexual Content

Debbie and Laine both wear cleavage-baring outfits. Both girls kiss their respective boyfriends. Laine's younger sister, Sarah, is depicted as something of a rebellious wild-child who sneaks off with older guys. She wears a midriff-baring top.

Violent Content

A handful of teens die through spiritual manipulations. One girl is possessed by an entity and pushed to hang herself with a decorative string of lights. Several have their lips magically stitched shut before dying. One is then levitated off the ground and her head is smashed down on the bathroom sink. She crumples to the floor where her blood seeps out. Somebody gets thrown into a covered pool: Tangled up in the bubble-wrap covering, he drowns. A guy disappears in a pile of ash.

The desiccated cadaver of a young girl is burned. A corpse-like poltergeist holds a sharp curved needle to a young woman's lips (but is interrupted before piercing them). This creature also twists a girl's hand around in an attempt to break her arm (but is again stopped short). A screeching ghost is pulverized into dust.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word is obscured by screams. We hear one or two s-words and a couple uses each of "h---" and "d--n." "Oh my god!" is spit out twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

When Laine expresses her concern for Sarah, her little sis retorts, "Don't care so much. It's way easier."

Conclusion

Here we have yet another woeful byproduct of that much ballyhooed partnership between Hasbro and Universal Pictures. Because this is far from family board game fun at the Cineplex.

Rather, this movie feels like it was the result of a gaggle of writers—assigned a title and a deadline—just haphazardly jotting down every tired ghost story trope they could think of. From the creepy doll in the attic to the hidden torture room in the basement to the found footage of a teen dabbling with evil to the crazy kids who keep coming back for more ... well, the tale stretches logic and any sort of sense to the snapping point on numerous occasions.

It's a serious subject, though, the use of a Ouija board. And at least this cinematic jump scene smorgasbord—with its creepy collection of nasty teen murders and twisted spirituality—curiously informs us that communing with the dead will, um, get you dead. That it's not appealing in any way. And that you should run far, far away if any of your friends think it's a cool idea. Take that at face value, and Scripture gives the sentiment two thumbs up, so we certainly will too.

Still, "It might pique their interest, especially if it's something they haven't played or thought about in a long time," says Jesse Cruz, manager of the Puzzle Zoo toy store in Los Angeles. "There's always some curiosity that comes with these things." And, indeed, it's the idea of playing with fire, getting "in touch" with something dangerous that compels many teens to play around with Ouija boards. So is it misbegotten and odd or accidentally clever, then, that this Hasbro-approved movie delivers the dictum: BURN ALL OUIJA BOARDS!

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Olivia Cooke as Laine Morris; Ana Coto as Sarah Morris; Shelley Hennig as Debbie Galardi; Daren Kagasoff as Trevor; Bianca Santos as Isabelle; Douglas Smith as Pete

Director

Stiles White ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 24, 2014

On Video

February 3, 2015

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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