Movie Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
“No telling what you’ll see.”
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso
Synopsis: The daughter of a fake medium is possessed by an evil spirit after making contact through an ouija board.
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Every now and then a sequel comes along that confounds your expectations. Ouija (2014) was a dull, run-of-the-mill horror that inexplicably made a ton of money, which, of course, ensured that, within two years of its release, we would have an uncalled for sequel foisted upon us. Sure enough, almost two years to the day after the release date of its predecessor, along comes Ouija: Origin of Evil. But, believe it or not, this bad boy is one of those once-in-a-decade rarities: a sequel that improves upon its antecedent in every way possible. Now, when you’re talking about Ouija, that’s admittedly not the highest of hurdles to clear, but even so, it’s always nice to be surprised.
The events depicted in Ouija: Origin of Evil precede those from the first movie, whisking us back to a sketchily painted 1965 to explain the origins of that stitched-mouth demon that will claims the lives of a number of teens yet to be born. It also returns us to the same house, in which Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) puts the most positive spin on the practice of parting gullible bereaved people from their hard-earned that you’re ever likely to hear. As Alice explains to her two daughters (and accomplices), by telling the poor lost souls who cross her palm with silver whatever they want to hear, they are simply providing closure. I’m not convinced, and I don’t think oldest daughter Lina (Annalise Basso – Captain Fantastic) is, either. However, times are hard since the untimely death of the family patriarch, and without this little scam – erm, public service – Alice and her kids would be out on the street.
Even with the modest income from her séances, Alice comes home one day to find a notice of foreclosure taped to her front door. She decides to buy a Ouija board in the hope that it will boost customer numbers and rigs it up to a magnet strapped to her leg, but finds that her youngest daughter, Doris (Lulu Wilson) is a natural, even speaking in the voice of the spirit her bereaved client is trying to contact. Even more staggering is the fact that Doris makes contact with her recently deceased father through the board, and it only takes a few correct answers to personal questions which only he could have known for Alice to be persuaded that it really is him sliding the planchette across the board.
However, things are not as they seem, which becomes apparent when Doris starts to act a little strange. Suddenly, the formerly angelic little girl is forcing a schoolboy to catapult stones into his own face, and, in a chilling moment that’s almost worth the price of admission/rental alone, eloquently describing exactly how it feels to be strangled to death to her older sister’s new boyfriend (Parker Mack – Divergent, The Darkness).
Flanagan fills Ouija: Origin of Evil with nods to movies from his youth, but manages to convey his fondness for such movies as The Twilight Zone and The Evil Dead without allowing the references to become intrusive. He also films in the old style, largely eschewing the sudden noises, jump scares and rapid cutting that passes for horror these days in favour of building tension through atmosphere and teasing glimpses of the demons with whom the Zanders reside. The entire cast does well, but it’s largely on the slender shoulders of Annalise Basso and, in particular, little Lulu Wilson on which the success of the movie rests, and both young actresses rise admirably to the occasion.
Ouija: Origin of Evil isn’t without it faults – the backstory of the malevolent spirits and their objective once they possess Doris is a little confused, to say the least, which means the final reel isn’t as powerful as it could have been – but the movie ends on a pleasingly downbeat note which is fitting not only for the story, but its chronological position in the franchise.
(Reviewed 6th November 2016)