Review - 'Ouija: Origin of Evil'
It's extremely rare that a sequel to a horror film is leagues better than the original, in fact, Evil Dead 2 and Final Destination 5 are really the only ones that comes to mind that accomplish this feat. Well, I'm proud to announce that this is also the case for Ouija: Origin of Evil. Mike Flanagan took the reins this time and decided that it would be wise to reset the planchette rather than make a straight-up sequel to the poorly-received original. Smart move.
The story follows a mother and her two daughters as they run a small fortune-telling business from their home. After the mother catches her daughter and friends playing with a Ouija board she decides to incorporate it into her business, which unbeknownst to them, invites harmful spirits into their household.
Mike Flanagan makes the astute decision to wind the clock back to the sixties and tell the story of how all of this nonsense got started in the first place. This is a magician's trick in disguise that allows him to restart the franchise without having to actually reboot it. There's also something about the feel of a successfully conceived period horror film that really goes a long way in helping to construct a great atmosphere for supernatural terror. It takes effort to make a good-looking film that's set decades ago, and Flanagan along with his team accomplish that.
In addition to looking and feeling the part; Ouija: Origin of Evil also has an engaging, if formulaic story. The film can be quite derivative of other better horror films but it has a unique family dynamic that I haven't witnessed as often. How many mothers do you know that run a fortune-telling business and have their kids help them do their dirty work? The movie also focuses on everyone's general fascination with the dead and how we would do anything to communicate with the ones we love who have since passed away. This has been done before plenty of times, but Flanagan holds your interest with consistently chilling imagery and a plot that plunges into a bleak downward spiral. I both like and dislike how this film ends; while it get points going for the jugular, I'm still not quite sure it makes any sense. The movie's ending also piggy-backs off of Flanagan's other theatrical release, Oculus, and who likes a copy-cat?
The actors in this film are mostly good. Elizabeth Reaser plays the mother, Alice Zander, who is one of the more unique mothers I've seen in a horror film. She's very protective of her children, yet she's not afraid to get them involved in supernatural activities. Reaser was refreshing to watch because she's so unlike the cookie-cutter parents that do and say exactly what you expect them to in most other horror films. The two daughters played by Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson are also very good. Lulu Wilson plays the troubled youngest daughter, Doris Zander, and I never once didn't believe her performance. The priest, Father Tom, is not as great. He's played by Henry Tomas and he gets some of the most cliched lines, it also doesn't help that his delivery is stilted and wooden. Tomas isn't bad per se, but his character left a lot to be desired and should have been a lot more charismatic considering his role in the film.
The effects in this film are very good, considering the movie only cost around $9 million to produce. Despite being cool to look at; I still don't quite understand how the evil entities work as they aren't really explained very well. That doesn't bother me too much though because I like ambiguity with my horror films. I just got the sense that the filmmaker's didn't really understand how the creature's powers work either. I also didn't like how the film recycled ideas from other better horror films. There's a shameless shot that lingers on a priest standing in front of the family's house that is obviously an attempt at an Exorcist moment; only Oujia 2 doesn't have nearly the same level of emotional heft as that film does.
Despite being derivative, Ouija: Origin of Evil provides an investing experience. The film is definitely scary enough to satisfy horror fans and has an ending that doesn't pull any punches. I don't know if the film makes much sense, but it is a consistently fun and scary watch, and that's the last thing I expected from a Ouija prequel.