Ouija: Origin of Evil
Review by Ray Schillaci
The Movie Guys
Can we just forget the first attempt at a Ouija movie and start the franchise here? Not that I want to encourage a succession of ouija board movies, but director and co-writer Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus) brings his level of spook house thrills while delivering a prequel that far exceeds the original.
Flanagan and writing partner Jeff Howard take the story of the board back to the mid-1960s when the board game regained popularity. They introduce a single mom and her two daughters trying to keep their life as normal as possible while attempting to pay the bills with palm reading and communicating with the spirit world for a nominal fee. Alice Zander tries to pass off her act for her youngest daughter, Doris, as a way to help the grieving while her oldest daughter comes up with ways to up the ante.
It appears to be a harmless family affair until sweet innocent Doris starts communicating with something else. And, it only gets worse when the family includes a Ouija board into their act. Eventually, the rules of the board are broken, and it’s not long before Doris displays some unusual behavior (writing in Polish, using the board hands free, speaking in someone else’s voice). Yes, the premise and promise of dark delicacies set before us sound familiar, but director Flanagan has a way of making it all feel fresh.
It also helps that the writers managed to slip in subtle humor and believable characters that we grow to care about. Elizabeth Reaser as Alice is both sympathetic and enjoyable as a woman doing the best she can raising two daughters on her own. Her discovery of the real spirit world is a wide-eyed wonder, and she is enthusiastically optimistic that nothing but good can come from it. But, her oldest daughter has her doubts. Annalise Basso as Lina is a wonderful mix of sass and intelligence. She gives us a grounded performance with her dating woes, conflicts with mom, and her take of the sudden strange goings-on. One cannot help but root for her throughout the story.
Then there’s Doris. Lulu Wilson gets the job done as the sweet and innocent child of the ’60s, and whether it be make-up, stand-in or Lulu herself, the evil is truly chilling. Her particular communication as she whispers grim tidings into the ears of others made my skin crawl. Nothing else in the film is as unsettling as those subtle moments that are less grandiose, and far more effective for being so. That’s not a slam to the rest of Flanagan’s film, it’s the bloody icing on this ghastly cake.
Writers Flanagan and Howard deliver a charming setting that is disturbingly thrown off-kilter by other-worldly phenomena. What starts off delightful and fun carefully builds to scares and screams that had even grown men in the audience shouting at the screening that I attended. Director Flanagan has proved time and time again that he has a wonderful touch for the unsettling and things that go bump in the night. Much to his credit, he has taken what was originally a mediocre first film, and delivered a prequel that packs such a punch it takes our breath away. Ouija: Origin of Evil creeps up on us very much like the boogey man himself and delivers a frenzied fright fest.
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Run Time: 99 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures