Ouija: Origin of Evil

Not content with polluting the cinema with the Transformers films, Hasbro also sought in 2014 to make a mess out of horror, making its sole horror-appropriate property into something that you’d struggle to describe favouring. That offering, Oujia, was slated by everyone, including on this very website (click Ouija for an angry blast from the past. Still, it was really the only film released at Halloween that year, so it made a fair bit of money and thus we find ourselves with the inevitable sequel. But, believe it or not, this one is actually half-decent. It’s about as formulaic as the original, but there is actually an element of fright to it – Ouija: Origin of Evil ignores the typical prequel blues by being a satisfying horror picture.

In 1967 Los Angeles, widowed mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) runs a fake séance business with her two daughters. In order to help improve her act, she adds a new prop – a Ouija board – and, in doing so, she unwittingly invites some authentic spirits into her home. The merciless spirit behaves benignly at first, but it soon overtakes the youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson) and becomes more and more malevolent. The small family must confront the horrors that lurk in their house to break evil’s hold over their home and send Doris’ possessor back to the other side.

Where do you go if you’re making the sequel to a critically slated horror movie? In this case, you turn to director Mike Flanagan. Responsible for Oculus and Hush, two of horror’s recent hits, Flanagan brings a capable hand to this project (although the need to tie everything in with the first film means there are elements that don’t work quite as well as they could have). Plot-wise, then, some of the characters aren’t too developed, or they take actions that make no sense, because their destination has been preordained by the first picture, much to this movie’s detriment.

It’s a shame, too, because the movie’s main family do a convincing job. Props go to Lulu Wilson, whose performance is a major contributor to the film’s scariness factor – she sits up there with some of horror’s dodgiest kids. A dynamic at the heart of this film is the bond between sisters, and Wilson also works well with Basso. Reaser’s mother finishes the family, a mother processing grief and looking after her daughters, and the family unit here is a strong one. Less so the other characters – our only other main player is Henry Thomas as Father Tom, who is there to spill exposition and shove the plot along.

It feels a shame to critique a horror film for lacking in originality, but this movie is very been-there, done-that in its final act – all the more the shame because the opening is full of promise, a piece of slow-burn that actually builds tension. It’s a shame we had to wind up with a daft CGI villain, and a villain back-story (mixing together another couple of old clichés that always explain a house full of evil) that left me more confused afterwards, because it has the effect of diluting what came before. Flanagan said that they had to edit out 30 minutes of footage and, with the gaps in the story, that certainly comes across.

There are quite a number of shortcomings to Ouija: Origin of Evil but, compared to the film that came before it, you could argue that it is a masterpiece. Sadly, the ‘sequelness’ of it detracts heavily from the movie, devaluing the characters and stripping the supposedly scary climax of any frights. It is a massive improvement on what came before, though still an average picture at best.

4.9

2016

Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Annalise Basso (Lina Zander), Elizabeth Reaser (Alice Zander), Lulu Wilson (Doris Zander), Henry Thomas (Father Tom Hogan), Parker Mack (Mikey), Halle Charlton (Ellie)
Running Time: 99 Mins
Country: Japan/USA

Image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/-jyFuatLx9I/maxresdefault.jpg

Reece Goodall

One day, long ago, a man had a dream. Then he woke up and started writing film reviews instead.