Ouija: Origin Of Evil: Film Review
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas
Director: Mike Flanagan
There's just something about creepy kids that the horror genre has to keep mining (just ask The Omen) - and Ouija: Origin of Evil has managed to add another one to the pantheon, thanks to this film, based on a board game (one of the wildest conceits the horror world has perhaps seen).
After a wildly financially successful but critically mauled first outing, the sequel, acting as a prequel heads to 1965 Los Angeles and to a widowed mother Alice (Reaser) struggling to make ends meet after the death of the patriarch. Equally struggling are daughters Paulina (Basso) and youngest Doris (Wilson, looking like a blonde CGI'd younger version of Reese Witherspoon).
Mum Alice is a medium, scamming people who visit but justifying it by offering them comfort for their pain. However, when business isn't powerful enough to keep the foreclosure ghosts away from their door, on Paulina's advice, she gets a Ouija board to use as a prop for her seances. But when youngest Doris claims to have been contacted by her father, something starts to go awry....
Ouija Origin Of Evil is at best a carbon copy horror film, filled with enough references to the past to stop it from being its own thing.
From the start with its usage of the old Universal logo to its vintage setting, use of significant moments from the era in the space age and execution (complete with the circles on the film used in the past to tell projectionists to change reels), this is a flick that's derivative of the genre and that squanders its genuine unease and unsettling set up for something rather familiar.
The deal's sealed when the priest played Henry "Elliott from ET" Thomas shows up outside the house, complete with suitcase and shadow in a blatant rip off from The Exorcist.
It's a shame because aside from the schlock standard jump scares, there's something relatively uneasy about the rather claustrophobic proceedings. From a soundtrack that exudes quiet rather than the traditional blast of a scraping OST to get the requisite jump moments to the evocative period setting, the beginning of Ouija Origin Of Evil is deeply unsettling thanks to tight camera angles and spooky goings on within the tightknit family.
However after Doris is possessed and her mouth starts apeing Munch's The Scream, the film starts to falter and the tropes and inherent illogical silliness that plagues some horror films infects the narrative, and it falls into a trapping of usual stock scares as the back half plays out and the malevolent moppet gets her grips into the family.
While it scores for being a bit more dour and downbeat than the usual fare trotted out for Hallowe'en, there's a feeling that Ouija: Origin Of Evil's more subtly written moments (grief of family, post-traumatic coping) are more successful in hitting the emotional beats than its schlockier edges.
But it still feels like this sequel is possessed by a rogue force rather than a benevolent one intent on ensuring the experience is a smoother ride - it's likely to be as successful as the first, but its derivative edges and reliance on illogical missteps mean it's creatively trapped in the past.