Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mother's Coming: Ouija (Film) & What's Haunting the Millennial Generation

It never ceases to amaze me how shallow critics of horror films are, because they also profess to be the biggest fans of them, yet they know nothing of the genre. Like all other films, but even more so, if someone dies in a horror film it's because they are all ready dead: some aspect of their behavior is being made an example of by showing how it leads to death; those who survive a horror film either exercise virtue or are at least able to repent sufficiently that they can go on. No other genre of art employs as rigid of a moral standard as a horror film, and Ouija is no exception. There is one important clue to understanding the entire film and that is a newspaper clipping but. As always, this post contains spoilers, so only read further at your own risk; this is a horror film, so there are also GRAPHIC IMAGES of death and violence.
SYNOPSIS OF THE FILM: Laine wants her friend Debbie to come to a game with her that night (and the game is an important detail) but Debbie has just thrown a Ouija board she found into the fire to burn. Debbie does back into the house and ends up hanging herself with a string of Christmas lights. Debbie's other friends meet the next day and receive the news of what has happened and the grieving begins. Debbie's mom is leaving town for awhile and Laine agrees to watch the house for her and Laine discovers the Ouija board one day and approaches the other friends about contacting Debbie. They make contact with a spirit who identifies their self as "D" and Laine takes that to be Debbie. The board spells out, "Hi, Friend" and the group stops playing after the lights go out. The next day, each of the friends discover "Hi, Friend," written somewhere and decide to meet again because Debbie is trying to tell them something. They then discover it's not Debbie, but DZ, and through the planchette, Laine sees a blond girl with her mouth sewn shut and spells out "RUN" on the board; when Peter asks, who hurt you, DZ spells out "MOTHER" and through the planchette, Laine sees "mother" rushing at her. The next day, Isobel is getting ready to take a bath and is flossing her teeth when her mouth becomes sewn shut and she can't move; her eyes turn completely white, she levitates, and her head is thrown violently against the porcelain sink, causing a major gash in her head from which she dies. As they begin to die off, Laine discovers a penguin flash drive with the video Debbie made of finding the board. Laine and Peter go back to the house and discover the box of photographs of the woman and girl they saw and discover they used to live there and play with the board but Doris Zander disappeared under mysterious circumstances but her sister Pauline is still alive at a mental institution. Laine goes to visit Pauline who tells Laine that her mother was a powerful medium, and used Doris as a vessel until she couldn't take the voices anymore and sewed up Doris' mouth and buried her in the basement. Laine, Trevor, Peter and Sarah go to find the secret room and Mother tries to stop them, but Laine successfully cuts the threads binding Doris' lips. Then Peter dies and Laine confronts Pauline who tricked Laine into "freeing" her sister: Mother had tried to stop Laine so Doris' power (the demons in her) wouldn't be unleashed but Laine failed. So now, Laine and Sarah go to Nona (their Catholic house keeper) and ask for advice, and Nona tells them they have to burn both the board and Doris' body. Laine, Trevor and Sarah go to the house to burn the body, but Trevor is killed before they get there. Doris threatens to kill Sarah, but Laine tricks her into playing the Ouija again but is nearly overhwelmed by Doris until Debbie's spirit appears and helps Laine win while Sarah takes the body of Doris and throws her in the furnace to burn, thus destroying Doris and her powers.
One of the schools of literary thought, New Historicism, examines works of art and looks for clues about what historical context a work of art exists in, or what references it makes to history. So, for example, we can ask what spirit has befriended the Millennials (the greeting, "Hi Friend") and made them think they were one person, when in fact, they are a very deadly spirit? Who claims the Millennials voted for him? We get an impressive newspaper clipping provided for this viewpoint as well as the daily habits of generation Y, or the Millennials. Desperate to find out what is killing their friends, Laine and Peter discover who lived in the house before their friend Debbie (who was the first to kill herself) in an old box with family photographs in the attic and realize what they need to do. The first important clue is: the attic.
There is an important detail about this scene which warrants our attention: Laine is getting ready to go to a game, a game they will probably lose, but she's going anyway, but Debbie decides to stay at home. With the newspaper article, we know the film makers are pro-capitalist, and this dialogue reveals an important aspect of Debbie and a difference with Laine. Laine is still open to competition (capitalism) even though Debbie has closed herself off, not letting either Laine or Peter in the house (isolationist). The more Debbie plays with the Ouija board, the more alone she wants to be and not discuss with anyone, in other words, she has "tight lips," the way the mouths of the others will be sewn up to resemble Doris'. Laine, on the other hand, reminds Debbie "No secrets between us," and gets Debbie to open-up and discuss what she has been doing. Debbie, then, has abused her friends by closing herself off to them (not discussing her difficulties with Peter and Laine) but allowing herself to be open to the spirit who wants to harm her. If you will notice, Debbie wears her hair like Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) from The Hunger Games, and the first installment of that film was decidedly pro-socialist, although Catching Fire was far less so and I anticipate Mockingjay Part 1 to not be pro-socialist. An important note I might as well mention here: after Isabelle's death, Laine is called into the principal's office and the name of the principal attempting to console her with the brochure is named Dr. Neustadter, which is German for New State, i.e., the Third Reich that the Nazis wanted to spread throughout the world, and, as we saw in Fury last week, lots of people in Hollywood are willing to start spreading again. On Debbie's bed is a Union Jack pillow, and there is a poster of a band from Liverpool with the Union Jack in Laine's room; why is this important? England/Great Britain has become increasingly socialist and the Union Jack elements being in the girls' rooms is a sign that they, like many Millennials, accept being a part of a "global community" rather than their national identity of the country where they were born. One of the facets of communism is that national identity ceases to exist and people identity only with the government that rules over them, like the government of Panem in The Hunger Games
When a character descends into the basement in any film, regardless of genre, (and that happens in Ouija), it signifies a descent into the baser appetites, the unconscious area where things have been buried (sometimes, literally) by the mind so the mind doesn't have to work it's way through whatever has been marginalized or cast out. The exact opposite is true with the symbol of the attic: a house usually stands as a symbol of a person's soul, because a home houses the body the way a body is the home of a soul (so windows become the "eyes" of the house) and the attic, usually the upper-most level of a house, stands as the highest-level of the mind, the potential of the mind or ideas that are lofty or difficult to grasp, or that the mind needs to explore. It's in the attic that Debbie finds the Ouija board.
This is a rather unique feature of the film they emphasize, people stepping on the planchette. Why? The feet symbolize our will power, because, just as our feet take us where we want to go, so our will expresses our desire of where we want to go/do. In the opening scenes of the film, after the slumber party scene, we saw Debbie use the planchette to say GOOD BYE, then she threw the board into the fireplace. Laine then called her on the phone, so Debbie goes out and talks to her, then goes back inside and it's obvious by things happening that burning the board didn't work the way Debbie hoped it would. Debbie stepping on the planchette upstairs--even though it had just been downstairs at the fireplace where she had burned it--indicates that there was a part of Debbie that didn't want to burn the board, but keep playing with it (had she really wanted to be through, she would have thought to throw the planchette in the flames as well, but this little bit escaping is all that is needed to open the door for the spirit to come back). 
Debbie isn't looking for the Ouija board when she finds it, she just randomly decided to start cleaning out the attic and discovered it. Two points: first, the very first opening scene is Debbie and Laine when they are little girls and Debbie teaches Laine how to play with the Ouija board, so their parents (who are strangely absent from the film) permitted the kids to play with it (you might as well know, I absolutely do not support people playing with Ouija boards whatsoever: the book The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was based on the 1949 exorcism of a young boy Father William S. Bowdern; the only cause of the boy becoming possessed was that he and his aunt had played with a Ouija board, and that's just one, quick example, (so now you know my bias). So the kids play with the Ouija very young and decide for themselves that it's harmless so that's why Debbie, who knows the "rules," breaks the rules and plays with it anyway, and secondly, Debbie tapes herself doing it.
Debbie has finished cleaning out the attic and has the Ouija board. It's not that the Ouija board signifies a higher plane of consciousness, or a lofty idea, rather, the condescending attitude that "It's not real, it's just a game," is an act of pride and arrogance. Debbie doesn't know she's playing over a graveyard, but she does know that it violates the rules to play by yourself; why? It depends on who made the rules. In game theory, one of my favorite approaches, and certainly an applicable one in the film, whoever makes the rules does so to benefit them. For example, the rules of basketball benefits tall players, so the team with the tallest players has the greatest advantage. "Play," on the other hand, is an absence of rules, and this absence is meant to grant some kind of advantage to the player(s) who might be disadvantaged by the rules. For example, in the story of David and Goliath, the rules of hand-to-hand combat clearly favor the giant Goliath; David, however, "playfully" interprets the rules to use his slingshot and thus, introduce his skill into the fight so he has a chance at winning. Who made the rules of the Ouija board, Hasbro, the manufacturer? Or is this folklore handed down through the ages, or are these rules the film introduces? Who is it that benefits from the rules? If you are not supposed to play alone, we can see that as benefiting both a human player and a potential spiritual (demon) player: the human playing with another human has someone there to talk them out of doing or asking things or stopping play all together; a spiritual player has the option of potentially possessing two people (or more) who are playing, instead of just one. Breaking the rule is an "advantage" for a single human because then they know no one is pushing the planchette, whereas when two or more are playing, everyone is confident that so-and-so is pushing it, but if you are alone, you know that you are not manipulating it. The advantage for a spiritual player for a human to play alone is they might be easier to hooked on the game and open themselves up to possession, which is what it appears Debbie did (we only see her playing once, on the video, and what she tells to Laine before Debbie hangs herself). Why not play in a graveyard?  A spiritual player wouldn't want that because, ironically, there might be more competition, more spirits, trying to take possession of the players; likewise, as long as the human players don't think it's real, the more apt they are to play longer because they perceive they are safe; in a graveyard, the atmosphere of death hanging around would not make players feel safe so they might be more tempted to end play earlier than if they were sitting at home in familiar surroundings. What about saying "good-bye?" Closing the session makes the human players feel in control and that the "play" is limited to the physical dimensions of the board; saying "good-bye" for the spiritual player is beneficial because, as long as the human players think they are in control, the more apt they are to play again and again, so they get hooked. The planchette is both the piece for "speaking" and the piece for "seeing," so we will discuss this below and how it's an appropriate symbol for Generation Y.
So, the rules of the Ouija board are: you can never play alone, you can never play in a graveyard and you must say good bye at the end of each session; to begin "play," you say a rhyme, then circle the planchette around the board for each person who is playing. Debbie, after discovering the Ouija board, actually breaks two rules: first, she plays by herself and then she is also playing over a graveyard (Doris Zander's body is in the basement). It's possible, however that there is an additional rule being broken: in the opening rhyme that is spoken, the player(s) say "we gather with hearts that are true," and that part about "true hearts" is entirely ambiguous: does that mean everyone believes the Ouija is true? Or that they all truly want to speak to Debbie? That no one is in a state of sin? This ambiguous phrase could easily be interpreted by a demon seeking to possess someone in a variety of ways so as to breach the gap between worlds and take possession of a person(s).
Laine discovers how Debbie discovered the Ouija board on a penguin USB drive; why a penguin? It's probably a reference to the very capitalistic Penguins Of Madagascar (the way X-Men Days Of Future Past references Whiplash). Why does Debbie record herself cleaning out the attic, and save it on a flash drive?  Other reviewers have accused this film of having no character development, and I take issue with that, because one of the issues of the film is what is blocking members of this generation from becoming the people they could become and I think Debbie filming herself talking about cleaning the attic is an important part of the problem. Filming themselves is an act of self-discovery, however, if how you are on film is being used to discover who you really are then there is a grave misunderstanding between your social being and your individuality. The ability to develop as a person has been so far removed from this generation that their maturity has been technologically stunted so this is as deep as it gets with them. Putting herself on the 2D screen of a computer/phone to communicate with others is no different than a spirit talking through the 2D board of the Ouija. Generation Y having an audience for what they are doing is like Doris being the vessel for all those spirits: they are never themselves, but whatever mood they feel or whatever it is they are "channeling" through the audience watching them. Social media, then, has taken on the characteristics and peculiarities of the Ouija board; more importantly, the way Generation Y interacts with each other and society at large mirrors how one interacts with a Ouija board. They practice seeing themselves as they anticipate others will see them and so the public image becomes the reality of their self for them just as Laine anticipates Debbie answering her call when they sit down and play the Ouija and Doris utilizes the persona of Debbie to fool Laine. Always geared towards a public at large, and potentially "going viral," the film puts the question to the audience (like players around the Ouija board, again, asking questions of a spirit: have the Millennials reversed the values of collective being, making the group more important than the individual? If so, this would be another reason why they would easily be set-up to accepting socialism.
I was born in 1975, so when I was a senior in high school in 1993, email still hadn't been invented, so this signals a huge culture gap between myself and the kids in the film who are on social media and tape themselves all the time (please see image above for more on this detail). So, what do we have so far? Debbie, a senior, excited about going to college (as Laine tells Debbie's mom at the funeral, with Debbie drawing pictures of their dorm rooms), went up to clean out the attic that was filthy, meaning, getting ready to go to college, where she was going to be exposed to a world of new ideas, and--like most of us going to college and starting our lives out fresh--she wanted to throw out everything that she wasn't going to need anymore (like outdated morality, things her parents had taught her and ideas that wouldn't be accepted by her new teachers and friends in college).  Debbie probably didn't do such a good job cleaning out the attic because, when Laine goes up there, dust particles are still over everything and fill the air; Debbie's poor sense of "cleanliness" is reflected in what she salvages from the attic, the Ouija board.
Debbie looks through the planchette, using the plastic circle as an "eye" to see those from "the other side." If you will notice, on the right side of the image is a yellow, green and lavender mask on the shelf behind Debbie; there are several masks in the film; why? It serves as commentary for what really happens when one of the characters holds up the planchette to see a ghost: the person distorts their identity. The plastic magnifies and distorts the eye looking through it, while completing blocking the other eye, transforming the person into a cyclops, which has symbolic meaning (Douglas Smith, who plays Peter in the film, Debbie's boyfriend, was the cyclops Tyson in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters): they have intentionally blinded themselves (by covering up their eye) and, by making themselves blind (blotting out wisdom, because eyes symbolize our ability to see things as they really are, and see ourselves, perceive, wisdom) they have dumbed themselves down and opened up a portal to allow spiritual beings into their world that, had they kept "both eyes open" and exercised reason, they would not have done. If you notice the case on Laine's cell phone, she has an eye (just one) on the back of it. This is further advanced by lights going off  in the house (the "light of reason") and the kids always going to the house at night (when they are not exercising "the light of reason"; more on these two topics below). If you notice Debbie's bedroom, she's not in theater, and we don't know that she is especially into reading, but she has several theater posters in her room, including Shakespeare's Hamlet. There are at least three reasons why Hamlet is in Debbie's room: first, the film makers want to remind you that ghost stories can be high art: there is probably no higher art than Shakespeare, so if the English Bard could tell you a ghost story, why can't these film makers (we see the same with Shakespeare references in Penny Dreadful). Secondly, even though Debbie isn't in theater or drama, it demonstrates that she has a flair for the dramatic naturally and uses it in her videos of herself. The third reason is the political plot of Hamlet. Has our own rightful government been destroyed and taken over by an impostor, like Hamlet's uncle in the play? Debbie is the victim of Doris impersonating her, and Laine and the others fall victim to it as well, and just as the actors staging the play to mirror the reality of the king's murder by his brother in Hamlet, Ouija is doing the same by mirroring the reality of what has happened in America politically and putting it into a play.
Instead of getting rid of the out-dated stuff, Debbie chooses the oldest, most ridiculous item to cling to, the Ouija board (because it doesn't work, it's not real,... right?). This demonstrates for us that Debbie makes bad choices and has a weak value system. She records herself playing with the Ouija board once, but she only records herself once, and in her last talk to Laine before she dies, Debbie had confessed that she had been playing with it (as in multiple times). We don't know what Debbie had asked or discussed,... or do we?
Sorry if this is a graphic image, but it's important for a number of reasons. To begin with, Debbie had gone "up the stairs" after she had burned the board and it seemed the spirit was still active so, just like discovering the board in "the attic," she's being called to a higher state of consciousness that just happens to kill her; how can we say that without being cruel? Well, she's hung herself in the "stair well," and, like the "gas" burner on the stove, the stair "well" is a play on words as well (the way "D" on the Ouija board is a play on "D" standing for "Debbie" or "Doris"). A "well" symbolizes the deep, inner-self from which we draw our strength and faith when faced with a crisis; Debbie hanging herself here, instead of from the light fixture in her room, for example, or even in the basement somewhere by where Doris' body was, shows that Debbie's failure to cultivate her inner-well of virtue, faith, understanding and individuality caused her to fall for the demons trick. What trick was that? That socialism is good (the gas burner coming on is a symbol for fossil fuels being bad for the environment). Maybe you noticed how, throughout the entire house, there appears to be abstract art, like at the very top of the stairs (you can sort of make out the Rothko-esque painting) and the two blue pieces on the first floor, to the right of the doorway in the image above (there is also a book on MODERN ART in the living room). Why? Even though Ouija appears to be a straight forward film, it requires interaction and engagement, JUST LIKE MODERN AND ABSTRACT ART, and, also like abstract art, it's supposed to reveal more about you than you know about yourself. Ouija achieves that.
After Debbie successfully gets rid of Laine and goes back inside the house, Debbie fixes some leftovers in the microwave and is eating when the back door opens; she closes and locks it but then the oven gas burner turns on and Debbie has to turn it off. The door clearly symbolizes a side door into the soul that Debbie didn't "lock up" and is still open for the spirit to enter (it's not just about destroying the board in the fire, in other words, Debbie has to fortify and secure herself which she failed to do; the planchette not having been destroyed in the fire re-iterates this interpretation) and the spirit has "cooked up" something for Debbie to eat with the burner coming on, or the spirit has cooked up something that Debbie has all ready eaten (bought into, partaken of). What could that be? Gas. The gas burner is a play for gas, car gas, fossil fuels and their "devastating effect" on the environment is likely what Debbie and the Millennial Generation have been "eating" that this dead spirit from 1953 has been feeding them (see discussion below in next caption), so, what's the newspaper clipping?
This is at the restaurant where Isabelle works. Even though we never see Laine or Isabelle eat anything, we see them floss. Again, Isabelle and Laine are on the opposite ends of the spectrum: Isabelle has appetites--for a car, for example, and she's possibly saving up to go to college--but (the mouth is the symbol for the appetites, including luxurious appetites) even though she has appetites for these things, she tries to keep it "clean" (the flossing means she doesn't want too expensive appetites). Laine, on the other hand, doesn't really seem to have any appetites--which is something of a characteristic of Generation Y, and why they tend to not have cars, or homes of their own, staying with their parents for a long time instead--and to Laine, not having appetites is keeping your appetites clean. Even though Laine drives, we don't know that it's her car (it might belong to the absent mother) and we don't ever actually see her driving. We don't see her working, or even really doing her homework or paying bills, or even doing chores around the house (Nona picks up after them) whereas Isabelle works and we see her taking out the trash at the restaurant when the phrase "Hi, Friend" appears on her car window.
After Laine sees the video of Debbie discovering the Ouija board in the attack, she talks to Peter and he agrees to go with her to look for more information. Laine finds photographs of "Mother," Mrs. Zander and her two daughters, Doris and Pauline, playing the Ouija board Debbie found. Peter erroneously suggests that the photos look like the 1940's (World War II) when in fact, they were from the 1950's, the Cold War between communism and capitalism. Peter goes online and discovers that Doris had gone missing and the mother was suspect in her disappearance; Pauline, however, was taken to a mental institute. Searching for what the date on the newspaper was, I didn't see it, but--and this is important--the prominent headline was Troops To Start Returning From Korea. The year, then, is 1953 when Doris Zander goes missing. (Remember, this is a fabricated newspaper, they created this just for the film, so of all the things they could have chosen to put on that page, that return of troops from South Korea is what they wanted intentionally).
After the phrase "Hi, Friend" appears to each member of the group, they play again, realizing it's not Debbie they talked to but someone else and the planchette flips from the board and points towards Isabelle, the only time it does that and Isabelle is the first of them to die. Why does this happen? Isabelle, we have to deduce, dies for two reasons. First, Isabelle says, the first time they gather to play, "I don't believe in it, but I still don't even want to touch it." Why didn't she trust her instinct? Basically, she gave into peer pressure to play, so that signals that she sacrificed her individuality for the group will. Secondly, Doris, a symbol of socialism, wants Isabelle to die, and marks her out specifically, because she is everything socialists don't like: responsible, making her own way and depending on herself to provide for what she needs. We can say that Isabelle taking a bath is to cleanse herself of the discouragement or disenchantment of working a job she probably doesn't like, but is doing to be self-sufficient. Why does Doris sew Isabelle's mouth shut? Doris can only do what Isabelle herself has done, and Isabelle not speaking out against using the Ouija means that Isabelle kept her "mouth shut," so Doris can also do that. Had Isabelle been more vocal, they probably would have all been saved. Doris wanted Isabelle dead first, again, because Isabelle was providing for herself and socialists don't want that.
With the return of US troops in 1953, the US had made the statement to China, the USSR and the rest of the world that, wherever communism was going to spread, the US would be there to insure it didn't, and given that North Korea's objective was to illegally seize the south of the country and make it communist, too, the US won by making it impossible for the communists to do so; the armistice that was signed in 1953 meant there was an official end to aggression (technically, North and South are still in a state of war) but the US had successfully defended a country from being taken over. How on earth does this relate to Ouija?  If you've seen Disney's Brave, you have an idea.
This is a rather bizarre scene, an abstract scene, like the art in Debbie's house, when Trevor gets the message "Hi Friend" in the tunnel. What happens is, Trevor rides his bike on a busy street (so he's not driving, even though he could be) and he gets off the path to go down to these tunnels for no stated reason whatsoever. At the tunnel, he hears someone/something. Out of nowhere, a female jogger appears and runs past him without looking at him. A shopping cart, full of old soda cans suddenly starts moving and a piece of chalk rolls towards him on the ground and he sees the words "Hi Friend" written on the wall. What's happened? When we make one decision, certain decisions exclude other possibilities. Trevor deciding not to drive (perhaps because he's too busy surfing and doesn't want to earn money to buy a car) means he has to leave the road and take the path; the path leads to these tunnels. What do these tunnels lead to? Hauntings. Who is that jogger that runs past him? A non-competitive athlete, which is what Trevor is by surfing (surfers compete, and it's a multi-million dollar industry, but Trevor isn't competitive). Surfing hasn't helped Trevor with anything in the film (it certainly doesn't save him when he falls into the pool) and we can compare this to Transformers IV when Mark Walhberg's character throws the football at the bad guy towards the end and knocks him out and saves his own life. In not engaging in a more competitive sport, Trevor runs the risk of losing his masculinity and becoming exactly what the left wants him to become: a woman because he's not exercising his testosterone. The tunnel he's in is probably a reference to the film that's being made by Hollywood liberals Paul Greengrass, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill The Tunnels about some East Germans trying to escape communism (even though you would think a film like this would be pro-capitalist, they are going to re-write history and it will become another pro-socialist propaganda piece). What about the shopping cart? Generally, a shopping cart would be a sign of consumerism, an invitation to get what you need; Trevor, however, isn't a participant in consumer culture, so the soda cans is a sign of him believing in recycling and that cart becoming the vehicle to bait him, like "gas" was for Debbie, the older boyfriend in the black car is for Sarah, and  the environment is for Gen Y. Now, I am not saying the environment isn't important, of course it is, but one political party in particular is using it to get votes and they aren't, like Doris, being honest about who they really are and what they really want, and how that's going to prove to be self-destructive for this generation of Americans. What about the chalk? It's a device we saw in The Conjuring, Annabelle and even The Dark Knight Rises. To socialists, everything is easily erased, history, reality, people, and chalk is what is the easiest to erase, meaning that, because Trevor hasn't invested himself anywhere, or done anything that's really going to matter--he has "become one with the waves" and has come and gone just like them--Trevor's life is as easy to wipe out as chalk dust.
"Mother," Mrs. Zander, we learn from Pauline, was an accomplished medium and practiced constantly; Doris was enthusiastic to help, and so Mother used Doris as a vessel for the spirits to talk through; it got to the point that Mother couldn't stand to hear the voices anymore as she had lost control over them, and over Doris, so she sewed up Doris' mouth (it's unclear if that killed her or if Mother did something else to her) and buried her in a secret room in the basement. Laine learns all this when she goes to visit Pauline at the mental institution. So, what does it mean for the film?
Laine really messes up in this scene when she lies about being Pauline Zander's niece. Not only does Laine align and make herself one of the Zanders in doing this, it signals to Pauline that Laine has a weak moral character and will be easy to take advantage of: Pauline "cooks up" a story for Laine the same way Doris "cooked up" a story for Debbie, to the detriment of both of them. The wheelchair is a vehicle for Pauline as the board is for Doris, and Pauline will make Laine a become a vehicle for freeing Doris from Mother. In a way, Pauline is very much a"Renfield" character from Dracula, assisting her "master" in the asylum because of the things she hears her "master" promising her; in this way, Pauline symbolizes the faction of communists in America who are doing what they can to free socialism from the constraints placed on it by "Mother America."
In the film Brave, Merida thinks her mother is a beast and so turns her into a bear when in fact, her mother is protecting her from the real beast of a bear in the film; likewise with Ouija, the spirit of Doris, and the half-truths of Pauline, successfully trick Laine into thinking Mother is a beast when Mother has tried to protect Laine and friends from what Doris,in her foolishness, had become (a home fro several dark demons). Mother, then, becomes a symbol for the US (as "the motherland" that gave birth to Doris and Pauline, but also to Laine, Debbie and the others) and just as the US fought to contain communism in North Korea so it wouldn't spread, so Mother fought to contain the demons in Doris so they wouldn't spread but, because they have been tricked, Debbie, Laine and the others are helping to spread the demons. Which demons are they exactly?
I am thrilled with this image! Nona, on the left, is Laine's and Sarah's housekeeper, but they have visited Nona at her house to finally consult with someone who knows and cares about them. When Laine had first brought Debbie's Ouija board home, Nona found it and, like a good parent (even though she is not) she told Laine in no uncertain terms that she had to stop using it and to get rid of it, but Laine didn't listen, the way Sarah didn't listen to Laine about her older boyfriend. The two girls going to Nona signals two important things: first, there is, again, a dramatic lack of adults that the Generation Y crowd feels they can trust and connect with; secondly, as is characteristic of Gen Y, Laine would rather go and talk to a woman she knows nothing about, in a mental institution then to talk to a religious woman who knows and loves her (Nona). Generally speaking, Gen Y views their self as not religious and distrusting of  religious institutions in general (on the left side of this image, just touching Laine's head, is a framed picture of one of the saints and Mary, probably Francis or Dominic, but I am not sure). Nona tells Laine and Sarah exactly what they have to do and why. In the center of this image is a large cabinet with all those apothecary drawers; why? That cabinet reflects Nona's wisdom and her ability to diagnose the situation and prescribe the right medicine, unlike the lunatic in the asylum that Laine went to first.
By what the demons do, we can form an understanding. Now, it's Mother who reveals her profile to Peter in the mirror then pushes his head into the glass; why? Mirrors are symbols of "reflection," and being able to reflect on what it is you are doing; Peter's face/head wasn't cut as a result of being pushed into the mirror, i.e., it didn't hurt him (unlike when Doris bangs Isabelle's head on the sink), so we can deduce that Mother wasn't trying to hurt him, but make him think. Doris, on the other hand, reveals who and what she is through the ways she haunts people, like the Christmas lights Debbie uses to hang herself.
This is how "Mother" appears to them when they play the Ouija the second time and, given the dramatic lacking of parents in the film, it's no wonder a "mother figure" would appear to them like this. Where is Debbie's dad, we never see him? We never see Laine's and Sarah's mom, and then the dad leaves town. Peter, Trevor and Isabelle might as well all be orphans for all we know; the housekeeper Nona is the only one who takes a parenting role in the film, apart from Mother and,... Laine. When Sarah is ready to sneak out the first time, Sarah accuses Laine, stop "hovering over me all the time," which is a reference to helicopter parents; the problem this film reveals is that parents aren't hovering, they are nowhere to be found anywhere. Is that why Mother protecting them is so difficult for them to grasp, that, like Sarah rebelling against Laine protecting her, the group of freinds are so void of feeling and knowing parental love (like Merida in Brave) that they reject that very force trying to save and protect them? Why would Mother have been practicing to be a medium? Well, the US was very much a "medium" for all the different channels of thought going on at the time and allowing complete freedom of expression: think of the Beat generation and their radical views of life, or any of the hippie and counter-cultural events taking place later in the '60's. The US allowed any form of thought and expression, even allowing people to talk and theorize about socialism, and certain "socialist" programs to be passed by the government. Why, then, did Mother sew up Doris' mouth? To lock up the voices that had started haunting her, or, politically speaking, the "Mother" of the US locked out and buried the voices of socialism that were trying to take over the world by engaging them in war all over the world because of the terrible things happening in the USSR, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and China. 
Of all the things the film makers could have used to have Debbie hang herself with, why a string of Christmas lights? The lights don't indicate that it's Christmas, but Debbie has taken something meant for a religious celebration (the lights) and "recycled them" to be used as a (secular) decoration in her room. Not identifying with religion or religious institutions is one of the characteristics of Generation Y (there is not a single prayer uttered, or the name of God ever mentioned in the film). Again, the planchette flipping to point at Isabelle and her being the first of the group to die, begs the question of why Doris would want her to be killed first (discussed in the caption above). What about how Trevor dies?
This is the doll Laine discovers in the attic, and we don't know much about it until the credits come up and we see extensive photographs that Laine supposedly found in the attic. There are pictures of Doris holding the doll by one lef, upside-down, or by the hair, or by the arm, but never hugging the doll to her; why not? That is how socialists treat people, like dolls to be thrown around. Girls who are growing up and emotionally maturing feel the love their parents have for them, so they want a doll that they can love and cherish and take care of the way their parents take care of them; Doris doesn't take care of the doll though and certainly doesn't direct any emotion or love to it. In China, for example, it's illegal to hug anyone, even members of your own family, because you do not belong to your parents or siblings, you belong to the state, and the state gets to decide what is going to be done to you, not your family. 
We had seen Trevor at the pool, messing with the pool cover, earlier in the film. Why is it that Doris uses Sarah's persona to lead Trevor back to the pool instead of Debbie? This could indicate that Doris realizes Trevor has a secret attraction to the "bad girl" Sarah and maybe he thinks Sarah is leading him to a place where they are going to have sex. Why deduce that? Water either symbolizes the cleansing power of Baptism, which leads to new life, or the bodily fluids of sex; the plastic on the pool surface that Trevor gets wrapped up in suggests condom useage. Why does Peter die? Just as Doris first appeared to Laine and the others as Debbie, so Doris appears to Peter as Debbie, in Peter's room. Why? Perhaps Peter had entertained thoughts like, "I wish we had had a chance to have sex before she died," or sex one more time, which is why she appears in his room. Remember, the eyes going white and looking as if a fog/smoke has taken over is a sign of death (white either symbolizes that a person is a live with faith, purity and innocence, or that they are spiritually dead because one or more of these virtues are dead within them).
In the trailer, Sarah's eyes go white when she tells someone at the table, "It's not real," but that never happens in the film. The first time we see Sarah is through the "eye" of the planchette when Debbie and Laine are little playing; that's important because with "one eye" is basically how Laine sees Sarah until the very end when they truly become sisters and save each other. The way Sarah is running around with that older guy, and sexually experimenting with him, is exactly what socialists want: kids introudced to sex at younger and younger ages, so that they lose any sense of sin or wrong-doing, which puts the State in control of "morality" and insures that people see themselves as "animals," not Children of God created with an eternal soul, rather, just one, not-special rung on the evolutionary ladder no different than any of the animals in the farmyard. In revolting against Laine's attempt to protect her, Sarah expresses a desire for that kind of care-free, morality-free life, until of course she realizes how evil the forces are that are out there and after them.
This probably explains why Laine survives the film: she doesn't mis-use people, she respects other people's dignity as people (whereas Trevor would be willing to have sex with Sarah, Peter would be willing to have sex with Debbie, and Debbie, whose eyes we don't see turn white, but uses the white stringed-Christmas lights to hang herself with, misused the religious for the secular and, in always filming herself, mis-used herself). Laine is also willing to sacrifice herself in challenging Doris to play the Ouija with her in order to save Sarah, which leads us to our next and final point.
Playing with the board at the "dining table" re-enforces the idea of the friends "eating" what the spirit cooks up for them and feeds them, but also enforces the idea that none of them are at home having dinner with their families.
The first time the group goes into the basement, Mother locks Peter and Trevor in a room, and this is probably to protect them from Doris who would try to kill them (because Trevor and Peter aren't hurt). The second time Sarah and Laine go into the basement, Sarah is sucked into the "secret room" and Doris is ready to sew her mouth shut, but Laine grabs the board, because she was getting ready to burn it, and challenges Doris to a game, saying, "You have to play with me Doris because I'm playing alone!" which means Doris has to leave Sarah and go play with Laine (shown below); this is an example of "play" and Laine interpreting the rules to benefit her so she can win. But here's where the film makers introduce the irony of the Ouija board,...
If Laine is able to flip the rules to make them work for her by breaking them (this is an example of "play") then Doris is going to do the same by forcing the planchette to say Good Bye so the game will be closed and ended and Doris can go back to killing Sarah. 
Whenever people play, someone is accused of "moving" the planchette. In this scene, Laien and Doris are locked in a fatal struggle to not move the planchette, Laine desperately not wanting the spirit to move the planchett. This is why Debbie is able to appear and help Laine, because it's actually the love that Laine has in her heart for Debbie that makes her stronger than Doris (remember when Nona tells Laine that Debbie is always in her heart, and you kind of smirk and say, "Yea, sure that's what everyone says," but this scene, again, proves the wisdom of Nona). Sarah, recognizing what her sister has done, does her part to burn the body and all the demons who had made Doris their home, have been exposed.
Politically, Ouija suggests that the Millennials have accidentally summoned a spirit who appeared to be friendly at first, specifically through environmental causes, their lack of religion and their growing sense of being citizens of a global community rather than Americans. Now that the spirit has been revealed to be hostile to Gen Y (as in terms of a $17 trillion dollar debt, a shrinking economy and higher tuition for college) Gen Y finally seems to be slowly, but selectively, waking up to the reality of what force has taken control and what it means to them.
Ultimately, Ouija is a critique of the behavior of Gen Y but, like all great art (the abstract art and Hamlet) it's not enough to criticize, but it wants to explore and offer remedies as well; by engaging with the film, in stead of just dismissing it, we harvest a great deal of information and considerations about this important group of Americans and the forces that have created them, such as absent parents/adults. Because the main horror of the film centers upon having one's mouth sewn shut, it would be a probing question for Gen Y to ask their self, "Why are we so horrified of not being able to speak?" They talk with their fingers (texting), and even with their eyes (taking pictures and videos with their phones then posting them as commentary); is Ouija challenging them to just listen?
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