Keep telling yourself it's just a game
What's the most generic thing associated with ghosts? Give you a hint - beyond "haunting" it's most likely the title of this movie. Now, something like this could go great - could go horribly, horribly wrong as well. I mean, what better excuse to have some other-worldly activity that a board of letters that functions by most accounts as a ungodly portal into that which shouldn't be tampered with? What foul demons and lovable Caspers will be summoned from somebody's generically naive actions? Will the movie game with your emotions, or would you rather see it burnt for the horrible time you had viewing it?
We start in a middle-flash back (stated only as such due to a flashback that goes even further back later) of our main and her bestie as younger kids playing with the old ghost-board. Her friend does take the time to lay down some ground rules first though: Never play alone, never play on in a graveyard, and always say goodbye. It's also mentioned that you can see ghosts through the planchet - something that amounts to nothing but a little jump scare for the young girls. We now fast forward to the "modern" times, in which we see the friend wrapping up a session with a board before throwing it into the fire. The main shows up, and they have a bit of a conversation outside in which the friend acts oddly - dropping hints that something might not be right according to the board - but the two part ways under the premise of meeting up for breakfast the next day. Back in the house, things get creepy for the friend when she finds the board is on her bed, and the planchet at her feet. She picks it up, looks on through the finder, her eyes go blank and she casually walks out and hangs herself with Christmas lights.
The main and her friends take it pretty hard - the main feeling distinctly like "it's my fault for not noticing something was wrong with her" - considering they all have no clue about the nefarious ghostly guidance going about. When the main slips away to her now deceased friend's room, something tries to draw her to the closet, but the friend's mom comes up to aid a bit in the mourning process. The next day, the main has to check on the house for the mother, and asks her boyfriend to check the pool cover while she checks inside. Some tensions get thrown around at the pool - but nothing happens - and the girl ends up finding the spirit board we saw her friend burn. The two talk about it a bit, and the next thing we know the mourning process train has the main character talking her friends into playing the board to try and get some closure. Before she can get out to do so, she finds her sister's much older friend hanging outside the house in his car, scares him off, and then informs the sister that she's coming along since she can't be trusted.
At the dead friend's house, they play the board. They get responses, and they get pretty scared when the power goes out. The dead friend's boyfriend sees a reflection of a lady in the mirror, and then ends up being shoved into it. Too spooked out, the friends say goodbye to the ghosts and bail on the house - but their terror has only just begun. Each one of them ends up seeing a message from the ghost session along with frightening events. It's agreed they need to go dig to the bottom of the situation, as it's decided that it must be the dead friend trying to tell them something. They play again, only to find out some girl ghost is there with her mouth sewn shut, trying to warn them about "mother." They panic and flee. Things go from bad to worse as it appears the ghost slowly start picking them off. Will they find out how to stop this "mother" from her seemingly kill-happy goal?
So, a couple of horror things first. Tension is used pretty well here, although I can't deny that it's the same tension that allows you to know exactly whats going to happen later in the movie because of it. The main character's friend lays down rules to abide by - and then breaks her own rules with the board later on - and at the same time outside of the one scene the main seems to not be too worried with the rules laid down either - not that they honestly amount to much in the course of the movie outside of foreshadowing. The movie is PG13 in rating, so you can expect most of the scares to come as either jump scares or jitter-walk (as nothing can be too graphic in nature be it violence or mentally without hitting that R rating). So, what we have is some good moments of tension, one actually good jump scare, and then a lot of moments where a watcher can be slapping their head going "Why would you do that?"
Next up, the plot. It's honestly nothing spectacular. I mean, it works, but at the same time it's nothing to write home about or providing anything really new. My largest complaint here though - more so than it feeling like more of the same - is that the ghost girl looks largely (in the kinda blurred planchet viewer and quick-movements) just like the main's friend, which ended up leaving me with a large amount of confusion. I ended up asking myself "why is her mouth sewn shut? Why is she afraid of her mother who isn't even dead?" Later on, after it explains that this is in fact not her friend, it suddenly made more sense and they manage to try and spin a plot twist in there, but it did break a bit of the flow for me.
Audio levels are fine - no real memorable score, but works decent with the mood of the scenes - and you can hear and understand the actors just fine. Sometimes this can feel a bit like a bad thing, as there are a few moments of "acting" that are a little less than convincing, unless convincing is making the character look like an emotionless doll trying to express sympathy but really just delivering lines. Costumes are nothing fancy, although our ghostly spirit in corpse-mode does a decent job looking like some kind of evil corpse relative of the Crypt Keeper. Likewise, although overdone in so many movies, the eye-misting effect works pretty fine.
If your a fan of the genre, and are okay with mediocre, I suppose this is probably worth a rent. I'm sure some people out there will love this movie, but for the most part of people I don't think the movie is really going to pop out as a must-own. That being said, although it's nothing spectacular, it's nothing really terrible either. Of course, to some, mediocrity is much more frightening than bad or incredible.