Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Movie Review: OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (Review #2)

In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

Following up the truly great Hush, Mike Flanagan is back at the helm of a new horror picture and this time it is a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija which I didn't see. My main interest in this was to see Flanagan delve into the genre again and hope to experience some of the same terror he has been able to give us in the past. Strangely enough this film is very light on the scares and shifts the focus on a more dramatic angle which works beautifully if only it weren't that the build up does not pay off.

What is clear from this film is that Flanagan is no average horror director and actually no average director at all. The screen is filled with brilliant filmmaking and he manages to pull off some beautifully touching character moments that aren't exactly what you are used to seeing in a horror film. From the touches he adds to make the film have a retro 60s feel to the way he directs every single one of these actors, he just demonstrates a confidence in the visual medium that is effortless to grasp and enjoy.

What is really particular of this horror film is the fact that I wouldn't actually call it a horror film. It is more of a "supernatural-family drama." Firstly, because the scares are neither what the film is interested in, nor are they scary, more on that later. Furthermore, what is primarily in focus here and what is the actively most engaging part is the characters who are being portrayed. Their story is absorbing, it is filled with obstacles and since it is very hard not to empathize with these people, it makes for a very riveting small scale drama. The characters involved are five at best, but every single one of their journeys is clearly presented to the audience, all of them have legitimate reasons to do what they are doing and the more it went on the more I surprised myself with how much I was actually engaged by their stories and these actors' performances.

The supernatural element is treated very smartly and gets incorporated into the story seamlessly and convincingly. Plus, the fact that these people feel so real and authentic really gives the film a touch of greatness that I was surprised by: I laughed multiple times and the character depth that the teenagers were graced with was something that really pleasantly surprised me.

The film has just one big problem: it is not scary. For some reason Flanagan does not come back to the tension filled sequences he gave us in something like Hush. The vast majority of this films scares are basic jump scares with a pleasant touch of creepiness added, yet only jump scares they remain. For a moment in the finale it seems like we could be touching great suspense dynamics, yet they are cut pretty fast. Basically the first two thirds of this film are amazing character development and genuine drama with which the viewer is really pulled into the picture. The problem is that it feels like all of this is building up to something spectacular, yet we end up with a final act that might have a couple of surprises up its sleeve (even if they might be a little too illogical), but isn't able to deliver a satisfying finale to these characters' story and enters territory that's way out of what the story world asked for.

Still, I would say this stands up as a worthy film, indicative of the director's great talents in technical filmmaking and competent storytelling. 

James's Score: 6.5/10

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