UK Release Date: 21st October 2016
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas, Parker Mack, Doug Jones
Synopsis: When a phoney medium adds an ouija board to her act in an attempt to spice things up, her youngest daughter forms a concerning attachment to the object and the spirits she can contact through it.
The original Ouija movie was terrible. It was everything that’s wrong with horror cinema personified in a movie with lousy jump scares, zero subtlety and an absolutely idiotic plot with over-explained lore that kills any horror. So I wasn’t excited for Ouija: Origin of Evil to put it lightly. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this prequel.
The film is directed by Mike Flanagan, who has had a few great horror movies under his belt such as the excellent Oculus and this year’s Hush. With a good director in place, Ouija: Origin of Evil manages to surpass its predecessor by leaps and bounds and you can really feel the effort that was put into this movie’s direction. This was far from a cheap cash-in with a no-name director. Flanagan put in the effort and it shows.
The movie is set in the 1960s, telling the story of the haunting that was discussed in the first film. Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) is a recent widow who works as a phoney fortune teller and her daughters Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) are in on the scam. To help add to the act, Alice decides to buy a new prop – the eponymous Ouija board. The board begins to present real spiritual connection to the fakers and focuses on the young Doris, who becomes fascinated with the object.
The movie really dives into its historical setting. The movie feels incredibly retro in many factors, from the colour of the movie echoing the orange and browns of late 60s decor and even opening with an old school border title page. It goes even further into the camera work with shaky zooms and shock zooms that were more prevalent in film making at the time. It really adds to the setting and shows Flanagan taking things the extra mile to create an authentic feel.
The absolute standout performance in the movie is Lulu Wilson as Doris. Her slow descent into a creepy possession is brilliantly done and her monologue about what happens to the body during strangulation is one of the most unsettling things I’ve sat through this year. This girl deserves to be noticed and I hope to see her more often.
Origin of Evil works best when it’s taking things slow. The movie doesn’t rush into the over the top antics we saw in the first movie and steadily builds its horror. This is not to say the movie drags its feet like Blair Witch did recently. Flanagan just seems aware that scares are more effective once you begin to know and like the characters and the tension of waiting is always more powerful than the shock.
The movie unfortunately begins to fall apart once it remembers it needs to be a prequel to Ouija. I’m not sure anyone besides me remembers any of the plot details of Ouija, or even cares about them, but the movie begins to bend over backwards to link everything to the steaming pile of crap that came before it. It awkwardly thrusts in exposition from a religious figure, like we haven’t seen that in about 100 other ghostly horror tales, and resorts to awkward, bloodless frights that really do nothing for the movie.
It’s trying so hard to connect the dots of a prequel that I was getting severe déjà vu that was ripping me out of the experience and at points the ending feels nonsensical, especially if you made the wise decision of avoiding the original Ouija.
Pop or Poop?
Despite a severe drop in the final act, Ouija: Origin of Evil is far better than it has any right to be, thanks to tremendous directorial confidence from Mike Flanagan and a standout performance by the young Lulu Wilson.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.