Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Directed by: Mike Flanagan | 99 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Annalize Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas, Parker Mack, Halle Charlton, Alexis G. Zall, Doug Jones, Kate Siegel, Sam Anderson, Chelsea Gonzalez, Lincoln Melcher, Nicholas Keenan, Michael Weaver, Ele Keats, Eve Gordon, Chad Heffelfinger, Nina Mansker, John Prosky, Lin Shaye

As the title suggests, this film is a prequel to the 2014 horror film ‘Ouija’. That film about the eponymous and famous ghost calling board game was a mediocre horror exercise that was poorly received by a large part of the international film guild. But because the film did well financially and commercially, space and money was made available for a second part.

‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ is set in 1967, a long time before the first Ouija film. We meet Alice Zander, a widow and mother of two daughters. To keep her head above water somewhat financially, Alice organizes fake seances in which her two girls secretly provide their assistance. That goes well for a while, until Alice buys a ouija board to give the feigned contact with the other side some extra credibility. But Lulu, the youngest daughter of the house, soon actually comes into contact with the supernatural through the board and becomes a conduit for spiritual forces that at first seem innocent, but gradually take on a more malicious appearance. When the family starts experimenting with the mysterious new gem, the experienced horror viewer already knows what time it is. The spirit world turns out to be more real and a lot more dangerous than the single-parent family could ever have imagined…

It becomes clear quite early in the film that ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ is a lot better than its damned predecessor. Clearly more attention has been paid to the story and the depth of the main characters. The acting is also a lot better than the often perfunctory fiddling that we are presented with in ‘Ouija’. The very young Lulu Wilson certainly does well as Doris Zander. She knows how to put down an interesting character that will regularly terrify you, especially as a less habitual horror viewer. The skilful camera work and the excellent directing by Mike Flanagan (who also has the creditable ‘Oculus’ to his name) certainly contribute to the authentic-looking image of the time and the pleasantly gloomy atmosphere that the film breathes.

Thematically and narratively, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ offers little new under the sun. Catholicism, a troubled family without a father figure, a house with a dark past, burgeoning sexuality, these are subjects that often recur in horror films with a psychologically melancholy edge. ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ does not win the originality prize. That does not alter the fact that the makers have just delivered a solid, at times even stylish ghost print that certainly scores a sufficient in terms of atmosphere, tension and acting. So anything but an annoying sit.

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