Ouija: Origin of Evil
Directed by: Mike Flanagan.
Written by: Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser (Alice Zander), Annalise Basso (Paulina Zander), Lulu Wilson (Doris Zander), Henry Thomas (Father Tom), Parker Mack (Mikey), Sam Anderson (Mr. Browning), Kate Siegel (Jenny Browning), Doug Jones (Ghoul Marcus/Devil’s Doctor), Lin Shaye (Old Paulina Zander).
I’ve now seen three horror film by director Mike Flanagan – Oculus, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, and will say that the man is a talented director of the genre. He knows the tricks, and he executes them with flair, and just enough of a twist that you cannot always see the next one coming a mile away. His films move with efficiency and speed – like finely tuned clocks. All three of the films are effective – and I’ve seen enough from him to think that one day, he really will deliver a truly great horror film. He hasn’t yet though – and I think it’s because his films are all surface scares – he hasn’t yet found material that truly gets at something elemental, and tap into our unconscious fears. He has a lot of good style – he just needs to put it to better use.
His latest, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a prequel to the 2014 film, Ouija – which I had heard was awful, and never did bother to see (I can assure you, this film works perfectly well even if you haven’t seen that one). It takes place in 1967, with the grieving Zander center at its core. The husband/father has recently died, leaving behind a wife, Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and two daughters – teenager Lina (Annalise Basso), and the younger Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice makes money – not much – giving psychic readings – with candles, séances – the whole bit, and even though it’s a fraud, she really does believe in it – that they are doing a service for people, by helping them get closure and give the ability to move on. Eventually, of course, Alice adds an Ouija board to the “act” – and unknowingly violates one of the only three rules. All of a sudden, the spirits really are communicating with the people who come to see Alice – but they’re doing so through Doris. At first, it’s seems harmless – but we all know isn’t, don’t we?
The movie is a slow burn for most its runtime – setting up this family – and the few people outside the family that will play a role in the film – Mikey (Parker Mack), the slightly older boy who wants to date Lina, and Father Tom (Henry Gibson) – a Priest, because of course, if you communicate with the undead, a Priest needs to show up at some point. The movie sets everything up nicely, and then slowly starts to turn the screws. The end of the film borders on the ridiculous, of course, but because Flanagan and company have done a good job of setting everything up one step at a time, you go with it when things very well could have flown off the rails.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is an enjoyable and effective horror movie. It won’t win any awards for originality, but it’s a good little nostalgic throwback to the films of the era it depicts – beginning with the old school company logo, right down to the lack of overt bloodletting, etc. It’s a good little horror film. What it never really does is terrify you though – unsettle, sure – creep you out, a little bit. But is doesn’t get bone deep terrifying – and it’s the type of film you’ll have no trouble sleeping after. Flanagan is a good horror movie director – but it’s time for him to become a great one.