Talking Boards in the Movies

Ask for a movie with a Ouija scene and your video clerk will most likely recommend one of the three Witchboard movies. A film you won't hear about is the 1973 blockbuster starring Captain Howdy. Who is Captain Howdy, you ask? Don't be surprised if the name doesn't ring a bell. His name didn't appear in the credits and he wasn't paid for his performance. In fact, he doesn't even appear on screen. Yet he was essential to the plot and without him there wouldn't have been much of a movie. This particular film did more than just break box office records; it redefined the horror film for the seventies. It was so frighteningly intense that many movie goers had to leave before the final curtain. Those poor souls would never look at pea soup the same way again. If you haven't already guessed, we're talking about the Blatty-Friedkin production of The Exorcist. The Ouija board sequence in the film is a small but significant one. In it, Chris (Ellen Burstyn) asks her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) if she knows how to use the family Ouija board:

"Sure Mom, I do it all the time with Captain Howdy," answers Regan.
"Who is Captain Howdy?" asks Chris.
"You know. Captain Howdy. I ask the questions and he gives the answers!"

In The Exorcist, the Ouija board acts as the threshold through which Captain Howdy takes possession of Regan. The film is a classic Christian psychodrama starring the Devil as absolute unmitigated evil whose sole purpose is to corrupt the innocent and torment the living. The Ouija scene, so essential to the plot, is quickly forgotten, eclipsed by the horror that follows.
-The Exorcist Buy from Amazon.com

Filmmakers love to use gimmicks so it's no surprise to see the Ouija board whenever there is a séance. Ouija sessions, or variations of it like Ask the Glass, usually appear in horror films, but sometimes in mainstream movies too. The Ouija will warn, instruct, or offer information from the spirit world, often with mixed results. This is frequently a key scene in the movie, setting the stage for the rest of the story. We rate a few of these films on the page below and give a short review. Amazon.com has great deals on movies both new and used. Where applicable there will be a link.

Five stars is our highest rating.

The skunk is for dreadful acting, nonexistent plot, gratuitous gore, and no redeeming qualities whatsoever—just what you may be looking for in a movie.

Ouija Board, Koko the Clown
1920 Cartoon
This live action/animation short is notable for being the first cartoon to feature a Ouija board. If you have ever seen Koko the Clown, you know what this is about. Recommended for Max Fleischer fans, talking board historians, and those under twelve only.

The Uninvited
1944 Horror
This is a superior 40's ghost thriller about a brother and sister (Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey) who buy a haunted house on the Cornish coast. At first scoffing at the rumors of a ghost in the house, they quickly change their minds when confronted by a malevolent presence. Understated by today's slash and hack standards, there is still enough atmosphere in this film to raise the hair on all but the most hardened horror movie fans' necks. It has all the classic ingredients: the old dark mansion, the family secret, great looking ghosts, and of course, the séance using an impromptu Ouija board made from a scrabble set and an inverted wine glass. Recommended. Buy Uninvited / Movie

Thirteen Ghosts
1960 Horror
A family with financial problems inherits an old dark house haunted by thirteen ghosts, a witch and a sleazy lawyer. Don't forget to wear your special "Ghost Viewers" to see the ghosts. Oops! Temporarily out of "Ghost Viewers?" Never fear, you won't need them for the home video versions. There is one very effective Ouija scene where the spirits announce their intention to H-U-R-T and maybe even K-I-L-L the unfortunate family. Martin Milner fans will love his performance as the money hungry attorney. Ever wondered what happened to Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West) after the Wizard of Oz? Find out in this William Castle thriller. Buy 13 Ghosts

Tales From the Crypt
1972 Horror
Amicus film adaptation of the 1950's comic book series with the same name. Dreadful deaths come to dreadful people who have done dreadful things in this wonderful late night gem of a movie. Five short tales make this easy to watch in parts—great for refrigerator and bathroom breaks in between the ghastliness. In Poetic Justice, Peter Cushing plays a kindly neighborhood eccentric, favorite of children and animals alike. His dead wife communicates with him through a Ouija board to warn him of danger from his jealous conniving across-the-street neighbors who have nothing better to do than to destroy his life with a vicious hate campaign. He delivers retribution in the form of a Valentine's "gift" so hideous that it gives real meaning to the movie's slogan: Death Lives! Buy Movie

Alison's Birthday
1979 Horror (Australia)
It is the low budget claustrophobic look of this movie, rather than the average plot or acting, that makes this film genuinely creepy. Sixteen year old Alison and several school mates conjure the spirit of Alison's dead father during a séance with a fabricated Ouija board. Her father warns her not to go home for her nineteenth birthday but a stronger presence named "Mirne" takes over and violently rearranges the furniture causing much damage and death to one of the girls. Two and a half years later, in one of those inexplicable sequences seen only in horror movies, Alison disregards the warning and returns home for a birthday celebration with her Aunt, Uncle, and close family friends. Before long, Alison finds herself at the mercy of an ancient Celtic demoness worshiping cult, proving without a doubt, that she should have listened to Daddy after all. Buy Alison's Birthday

Amityville 3-D
1983 Horror
A skeptical writer buys the infamous Amityville house because it's cheap and because he obviously hasn't seen the first two Amityville movies. His family is a little leery of the idea. Predictably, everyone dies a painful, horrible death. Good acting and special effects makes this a watchable if slow moving horror film. Meg Ryan (in one of her first films) has the best line when she asks the glass, "Is there anyone in this room who is really in danger?" The viewers of this movie won't need a Ouija board to know the answer to that one. Buy Amityville 3-D

The Devil's Gift
1984 Horror
An evil spirit conjured by an old crone through a Ouija board, shows his appreciation by killing her, demolishing her home then lodging in her toy cymbal playing monkey. The monkey somehow ends up in a second hand store and is sold to a woman looking for a birthday gift for a young boy. All sorts of bad things happen to the boy and his dad when the monkey gets "mad" and claps the cymbal. The cymbal playing monkey in this movie is seriously scary but the movie is so poorly constructed that it really doesn't matter. It is unlikely that anyone will ever sit through it beginning to end unless they are tranquilized, asleep, or otherwise occupied with a partner on the couch. Buy Devil's Gift

Spookies
1985 Horror
A group of losers looking for laughs invade an old mansion unaware that an evil sorcerer is lurking in the attic just waiting for a few juicy new sacrifices to use in his demonic plan to resurrect his long dead wife. A Ouija board, found in a closet, prophesies then directs the killings of the unwitting guests by creatures best described as excrement men. Borrowing heavily from films like Phantasm and Night of the Living Dead, this movie has the suspense and horror of neither, disintegrating instead into a foul mess of bad special effects and abysmal acting. Excruciating to watch, it may be the worst horror film ever made. View at your own risk. Buy Spookies

Witchboard
1985 Horror
This is the first and the best of the Witchboard trilogy. At a party, a gathering of friends channel an evil entity impersonating the spirit of a little boy through a Ouija board. A young woman (Tawny Kitaen!), fascinated by the idea of contact beyond the grave, becomes ensnared by the possessive spirit named Malfator. Coming to her aid are two feuding boyfriends, a whacked out trance medium, and a bumbling detective. Somehow it all works wonderfully. This movie is responsible for shaping more opinions (and fears) about the Ouija than any other, exploiting masterfully every superstition known about the board. It even adds one of its own—progressive entrapment. If you were fortunate (?) enough to see this film on opening night at the right theater, and weren't completely freaked out of your wits, you could have brought home your very own Witchboard—compliments of the promotions department at Paragon Arts International. Buy Witchboard/Movie

Girls' School Screamers
1986 Horror
A rich man dies and bequeaths a mansion loaded with goodies to a girl's Catholic school. The Nuns send several girls to the estate to inventory its contents. At first all goes well, with the girls playing merry games, swearing and smoking, and talking about boys, as girls will do. While hiding under a vanity during a game of hide and seek, a girl finds an old diary that tells a tale of love gone bad and a horrible betrayal. Anxious to know more, the girls hold a séance using an improvised Ouija board (in this case, "Ask the Skull") to discover the truth. But before they find out anything, they are all killed by a lurker with eggs for eyes and earthworms dangling from his nose. This is an absolutely dreadful film with acting so bad that it appears that the actors are reading from a teleprompter. It's hard to feel any sympathy for the characters as they are axed, hooked, strangled, drowned, run over, or otherwise dispatched. Someone should do the same thing to the makers of this movie. Buy Girl School Screamers

Awakenings
1990 Drama
Robin Williams plays a shy but determined research physician at a mental hospital caring for brain damaged patients believed to be beyond medical help. Bucking the system from the start, he determines to find the answers to a baffling malady that renders its victims living statues. While experimenting with a catatonic patient (Robert De Niro) using a Ouija board, he discovers that the apparently non-responsive patient is functioning after all, if only on some deep inner level. Top notch directing and acting make this an above average film, although some viewers may find the subject matter far more disturbing than any horror film on this page. Highly recommended. Buy Awakenings

Repossessed
1990 Comedy
Stupid, irreverent, and hysterically funny, this spoof of The Exorcist will either keep you in stitches or bore you to death depending on how you resonate with its hit or miss humor. Linda Blair steals the show as the now grown woman who is "repossessed" by the Devil. Leslie Nielson is the exorcist who must free her. Lots of pea soup, neck twisting and devil witticisms from Blair who looks as if she is having the time of her life. Supporting players Ned Beatty and Linda Schwab are great as Jim and Tammy Bakker lookalikes. Anthony Starke plays the young bumbling priest struggling with faith issues. Keep an eye out for the Ouija scene, when someone asks the question, "Will Ted Kennedy ever be elected president?" We told you it was a stupid film. We loved it anyway. Buy Repossessed

And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird
1991 Comedy
Two teenage brothers with high IQs create a robot for fun and profit and to help their family in the midst of a financial crisis following their father's untimely death. At a Halloween party, the older boy inadvertently releases the spirit of his father from his heavenly reward during a session with a talking board. The father's spirit takes up residency in the boys' robot with predictable results. The number of subplots in this film keeps it from becoming too pedestrian and there is a particularly touching scene when the robot reveals his true identity to the boys' mother. This one will keep the kids busy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Mildly entertaining. Buy Movie

Radio Flyer
1991 Drama
A drunken stepfather sadistically terrorizes two brothers and thrashes the younger one black and blue. The hardworking mom is blissfully unaware until the badly beaten youngster is hospitalized. After a brief jail stint, the stepfather, who insists the family call him "The King," returns to continue the abuse. The boys try to deal with the real-life monster by vanquishing imaginary ones and spending their days as far from "The King" as possible. While using a Rajah Far East Talking Board they ask, "Is there really a Bigfoot?" Big Jerk is more like it. The title of the film refers to a red wagon that the boys outfit with wings and a lawnmower motor in hopes that it will fly them to freedom. If this movie gets you all worked up you can call the number for abused children displayed during the closing credits. Buy Radio Flyer

Sorority House Massacre 2
1992 Horror
Five silicone enhanced beauties express dismay at the rundown condition of their new college sorority house. Fortunately, they find a Ouija board in the basement to help lift their spirits. Before the Ouija can reveal anything meaningful, the planchette explodes and flies into the fireplace. One girl is brainy enough to know that "lightning must have struck the house" causing the abnormality. But viewers of these sorts of films know that lightning had nothing to do with it. The actresses are going to get naked, take showers, and then be slaughtered in the most horrible ways. Why? Well, because that's just what happens—that's why! Buy Sorority House Massacre 2

Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway
1993 Horror
Paige (Ami Dolenz), a timid but pretty woman tired of playing it safe, takes an artist's loft to escape a controlling boyfriend and to pursue her interest in painting. She soon meets the apartment building's weird inhabitants: an intense photographer, a lecherous landlord and his forty-something hippie wife. Paige's problems begin when she uses a Ouija board left by a former tenant, an exotic dancer named Susan. She learns from the Ouija that Susan was murdered and that no one is aware of the crime. For reasons impossible to comprehend, Paige decides to search for Susan's body and expose her killer. Things get hairy when (surprise!) an ungrateful Susan escapes the spirit world and possesses Paige's body so that she can "get her life back." This is an OK horror film that gets bogged down by the lead character's unbelievable behavior. Is this girl just a little dumb, or what? There are good special effects though, along with great dialog like, "You can't kill me, I'm already dead!" and, "You always wanted me when I was alive and you wanted Paige too. Now you can have us both at the same time!" See the promo board for Witchboard 2. Buy Witchboard 2 / Movie

Only You
1994 Romance
When eleven year old Faith asks the Ouija board who her future husband will be, the message indicator spells out D-A-M-O-N B-R-A-D-L-E-Y. Years later at a carnival, a fortune teller startles her by revealing the same name. Convinced that Damon Bradley is her destined soul-mate but resigned to the realization that they will never meet, Faith (Marisa Tomei) settles for a really boring guy instead. Just before they are married, she is astonished to hear that a friend of her fiancé's in Italy has the name Damon Bradley. Calling off her wedding, she boards a plane to search for the man of her dreams. This is a good "first date" film appealing to those who like lighthearted romance movies with good endings. Girls will love it. Guys: bring your Rolaids. Buy Only You

Witchboard 3: The Possession
1995 Horror
When a young married couple inherits a Ouija board from their recently deceased landlord, they marvel over their new found fortune, especially since the Ouija can correctly predict the stock market. But unbeknownst to them, the landlord is really a big ugly demon with horns and bad skin and is not as dead as everyone believes. Using the Ouija as a portal, the demon possesses the body of the young man then tries to make a devil baby with the pretty wife and later her comely best friend. Things go downhill for the young couple and also for any unfortunate viewers of this convoluted, almost unwatchable film. Neat looking Ouija board, though. If you rent this on video be sure to have the remote control close by. You will want to keep your finger near the "fast forward" button. Buy Witchboard III - The Possession

Grim
1995 Horror
It's half Morlock, half pepperoni pizza and it's frozen in stone in the abandoned mine beneath your house. Not to worry unless you conjure it playing "Ask the Glass" like the stupid dolts do in this awful splatter film. They all die. They are crushed, chopped, chained, caged, bludgeoned, beheaded, eaten, jerked through the floorboards, and scared out of their wits—and not necessarily in that order. If you're a fan of the dripping red stuff and don't mind watching a movie so bad that it's Grim, then by all means, rent this movie from your local video outlet before they destroy every last copy. Better still, rescue one from the remainder bin and give it to a friend. No reason for you to suffer alone. Get Grim

What Lies Beneath
2000 Horror
Is Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) having an attack of "empty nest syndrome" or has a spook come home to roost? She uses a K-Mart Ouija board to try to find out. This is the first movie ever to feature the séance in the bathroom. It beats reading the newspaper. Good acting from stars Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford keep this lightweight horror film afloat. The last five minutes are worth the first two hours of typical horror film "startle moments" and not-so-creepy ghostly manifestations. Watch for the bridge scene where Claire wins the "Absurd Things Actresses Do To Make The Plot Work" award. Buy What Lies Beneath

Long Time Dead
2002 Horror
Several British twenty-somethings top off a night of clubbing and drugging by having a Ouija board session. Not surprisingly, they encounter a nasty spirit. The message is, "all die," and, sure enough, they all do. The spirit takes an hour and a half to kill them. That's a job that would take any respectable demon about thirty seconds. The movie is marred by tangled story lines, insufferable characters, and annoying MTV-like jump cuts. Long Time Dead may be comprehensible to whoever made this film but not to anyone else. Not sure if it ever appeared stateside, although some of our readers swear it did. Available on tape and DVD. Buy Long Time Dead

Paranormal Activity
2007 Horror
A paranormal something haunts young couple Micah and Katie in their home. Micah records the entire ordeal and we get to see what the camera sees in this unusual horror film. Big studios listen up. This is how you make a truly creepy and terrifying horror film for next to no money. It is unnerving and brilliant in its simplicity. Yes, there is a talking board and like the other gimmicks in this movie it works flawlessly to deliver exactly what we are looking for. Don't even think about it. Buy Paranormal Activity You won't be sorry.

I Am ZOZO
2013 Horror
On Halloween, five friends meet to celebrate in a private island hideaway. One brings a Mystifying Oracle and they encounter a variety of spirits including one named ZOZO who is extremely bad news. Aside from that one small detail, they get to spend quality time bonding the way young people love to do. So, what's to complain about? If you hate movies that set you up, show tons of promise only to flat line later, this one is not for you. Shot entirely on Kodak Super 8mm film, there is a beautiful haunting and personal feel to admire. The soundtrack is marvelous and brings us closer to the actors who are authentic and well developed, unlike in the majority of low budget scary films these days. The slow pacing of the film, and make no mistake, it is slo-o-o-w, works to its advantage, developing mood and getting us primed for the grand finale. Unfortunately, during the last five minutes, where everything is supposed to happen, nothing of any consequence does. Because of the poorly thought out ending, the movie is neither here nor there. It's not scary enough to satisfy horror fans nor is it an effective psychological thriller, which it wants so desperately to be. Buy I Am Zozo

Ouija
2014 Horror
After playing with a Ouija board the wrong way, a girl commits suicide by wrapping a Christmas tree light cord around her neck and jumping off a second floor balcony. Or, so it appears. Not fooled for a minute, her best friends unite to discover what really happened and this means that they must use the same Ouija board to unravel the mystery. Critics hated this movie and for good reason. Despite likable, competent actors, it delivers nothing in the way of tension, foreboding, or scares of any kind. It is "watch out, something is about to happen" followed by a loud noise. If loud noises don't scare you, neither will this movie. Aimed for the PG13 crowd, there is no sex, no nudity, no gore, and no horror. Not that these things, except for the last, are essential but one gets the feeling that it is one long episode from the CW Television Network—maybe Supernatural without the Super or the Natural. On the bright side, Ouija, topped the movie charts for opening weekend making a ton of money. Let's hope Ouija 2 gets it better.

Know of a movie that should be added to this list? e-mail us.

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