Ouija is directed, co-written and produced by Stiles White and Juliet Snowden. It is a directorial debut for White who has a career back into the 1990s as a production assistant at the Stan Winston Studio. Teaming with Snowden, the two of them accrued some reasonably high-profile horror credits with the screenplays for Boogeyman (2005), Knowing (2009) and The Possession (2012).
The ouija board (whether you pronounce it as wee-jah as I grew up doing or else as wee-gee as characters on the North American continent and in the film do) has had a sporadic interest on film in efforts such as The Uninvited (1944), 13 Ghosts (1960), The Exorcist (1973), Witchboard (1986), Is Anybody There? (2002), Long Time Dead (2002), Greetings (2007), The Unleashed (2011) and others. The problem for many of these films is that the ouija board is actually a trademarked name that was first patented in 1890 by American lawyer Elijah Bond. Parker Brothers bought the patent and marketed the ouija board as a childrens toy since 1966, while this was taken over in 1991 by Hasbro. Such a mundane origin does seem amusing given the hysteria that surrounds the claims about the occultic power of ouija boards and that they are gateways to demonic forces that we get from Christian fundamentalist circles. The name ouija is believed to be a concatenation of the French and German words for yes.
Most of Platinum Dunes ventures into horror have been reasonable box-office successes but have been unexceptional. Crucially, they have failed to set the world alight when it comes to horror, unless you want to count The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sparking off the unwelcome late 00s trend of remaking 1970s/80s horror film, of which Platinum Dunes became the most high-profile proponent. On the other hand, Jason Blum has shown himself as a producer with smarts and has been behind some above-average films so it was a question of which way Ouija would fall.
True to Platinum Dunes form, there is something utterly generic about Ouija. Much of the plot feels like it has been slung together by constructor set. The teens all unknown names except for the rising British actress Olivia Cooke who has been accruing some reasonable genre credits in the last couple of years with the likes of tvs The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012) and Bates Motel (2013-7) and the films The Quiet Ones (2014) and The Signal (2014) have no more character depth to them than names. The story follows standard tropes involving setting something malevolent loose, which then proceeds to go through the standard Teens in Peril set-up eliminating them one by one.
On the other hand, you cannot deny that Stiles White creates something undeniably spooky at times. When you get past the irritating red herring jumps where a loud amplified noise is often used to jolt an audience when someone unexpectedly appears in a room or out of a corner, there is something effective to the film like from about the point of the seance in the darkened house with the chair moving and where Olivia Cooke looks through the planchette lens and sees the ghost of the girl lunging towards her screaming shes coming, followed by the appearance of the mother. Other scenes with spooky figures appearing in the background, in pedestrian tunnels, shadows in the attic, eerie scenes with Bianca Santos being levitated in her bathroom and so on are all commendable horror mechanics and show that Stiles White has studied his material.
If all of this had come with a less generic script, Ouija could have had the makings of an impressive little film. As it is, we feel like we are getting Insidious Lite. The latter third of the show abandons the spooky build-up and degenerates into too much in the way of pop-up effects. The otherwise generic script is also badly hobbled by an implausible twist mid-film where apparently [PLOT SPOILERS] the ghosts and the living have conspired to conduct a scam on the teens who ventured into the house, of course knowing in advance that they would use the ouija board.
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) was a prequel.
Jason Blum has also produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Reawakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), Split (2017) and Stephanie (2017).