Sunday, October 23, 2016


Ouija: Origin of Evil is the prequel to the 2014 film Ouija produced by Blumhouse Productions. This iteration is directed by Mike Flanagan and stars Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Parker Mack, and Henry Thomas. The film follows the story of the Zander family in the late 1960s after the death of the father in their family as they perform faked séances for money. At one point, the mother purchases a Ouija board to add to the act and the youngest daughter, Doris (Lulu Wilson), connects to actual spirits via the board and, as expected things devolve.

Surprisingly Ouija: Origin of Evil turned out to be a pretty solid horror film. Flanagan direct this film extremely well and plays with a lot of great characterization and builds really sophisticated scares along the way. Of course this film is fraught with jump scares, as most modern horror films are, but for the most part those are used to great effect (much like they were in the film Lights Out earlier this year, a film I liked quite a bit). There are a lot of great things that are not focused on in the frame that develop the real sense of dread I felt as an audience member in this film and I think the ability to know when to use a big terrifying thing as opposed to something small and more atmospheric shows really great skill in horror direction and filmmaking.

On the note of atmosphere, a real triumph in this film is its ability to capture a sense of time and place. I was able to really buy into the fact that this film was indeed set in the late 60s and the production design to that effect was really solid. Additionally, the way the characters interacted and played off one another really established that time period well in the minds of the viewer.

The only other real positive in this film were the performances. There was nothing glaringly poor in any of the key roles. They all served their part as needed. Reaser and Thomas interact really well and Basso gets to show lots of emotional range. The most impressive performance of the lot was from Wilson, however, as she really gets to go through so many different phases and delivers one of the creepiest child performances I’ve seen in a while.

This movie is far from perfect though and kind of winds up just being a pretty ok horror film. At the end of the day there is nothing terribly unique in this film and though there are some effective scares, nothing was “shocking.” Additionally, as this film approaches its conclusion it really devolves into banality and is kind of all over the place. I also thought it really didn’t have a good sense of how it wanted to end. This film does have a great finishing moment, to be sure, but it felt like it had a hard time getting there. Moreover, there are some elements of the turns toward the conclusion that just felt weird and hamfisted and didn’t work with the film Flanagan had established earlier.

My other complaint with this movie is cosmetic in nature alone. One of the visual clues Flanagan provides for the time period this is set are screen elements from older cinema. For example, it has the old Universal logo at the front, and has a title card with the traditional Roman numeral copyright dates. These were cute and kind of something that I thought added an element of fun to what was going on. But, they went further and added the traditional “cigarette burns” seen in films shot on film to let the projectionists know when to change film reels. This film was shot and projected digitally (and that is obvious on its face) so the frequent cigarette burns became a distracting gimmick that ceased to be a cute addition and more something that showed they were trying way too hard to achieve something they were failing to accomplish.

Overall, I think Ouija: Origin of Evil is an entirely acceptable horror film (and from what I hear, light years better than the first one). It likely won’t wow you in any way but it’s got a few creepy moments and very little that is offensively bad. It’s worth checking out as the only horror film available this Halloween seasons in a theater near you!

Ryan’s Score: 6.5/10

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