Ouija: Origin of Evil is the sequel-prequel to the terrible first movie that is Ouija (2014). It has the word ‘Ouija’ in the title just for the sake of creating a potential film series for it. But contrary to popular belief, it is nothing like the original at all. Rather, it is better than its predecessor in more ways than one; from the writing to the acting; everything feels more cohesive and logical. But you also have to take into account how the first film set such a low standard for future movies in the franchise to surpass. Nevertheless, the impossibilities are endless if there can be a fortunate twist of fate for such a generic franchise like this.
The film is set in 1967 Los Angeles so just like what so many other films are doing right now, you can totally expect it to model The Conjuring’s tone of an old school horror flick and its artwork. Ouija: Origin of Evil follows a widow, Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) who makes a living by running a séance scam business in her own home. She doesn’t see it as a scam as her actual intent is to give people closure in their personal lives. After her daughter, Paulina (Annalise Basso), encounters a Ouija board at a party, she suggests to Alice that she should consider incorporating the board in her business. Alice decides to add this new stunt to her readings. While testing the board one day, she accidentally invites an evil entity into her house which proceeds to possess her youngest daughter, Doris (Lulu Wilson). As the spirit becomes stronger in Doris every day, the family must confront their fears to save her before the malevolent spirit takes over their lives.
Uninventive jump scares and uneven writing plague the potential of Ouija: Origin of Evil. It is as if Mike Flanagan, the director, thought so little of his audience that he felt that we would be genuinely petrified at what he does. This is definitely not the movie which will raise questions about that suspicious dark corner of your room as its spooks are leaning more towards the funny side rather than the creepy. Horror genre veterans will probably find this film highly clichéd as everything Flanagan does has been repeated before somewhere, just in a different movie. The family setting blueprint which has been used countless of times starts to become repetitive through the midway point of the show and you really want it to pick up the pace to where the ghost will display its true power of haunting. With that being said, the final act of the film hits a tad bit too late and I like to imagine that if just ten minutes were to be shaved off excess character development, the film would feel more engrossing than what it actually is.
The root reason why this unlucky family got into trouble with the spiritual underworld is because of the shady business Alice is involved in. But for something so pivotal in the main plot, the show doesn’t explain why the family is caught up in the business of being con artists in the first place. The motivation for them to continue doing what they are doing is completely void and that extra focus is blindly guided towards how the Ouija board is affecting their lives. It is also pretty odd how Flanagan shoves aside the theme of scrutinizing the morally implicating questions in their line of work. I get that a horror film doesn’t have to be thought-provoking in any way, shape or form but it will obviously make it more interesting for the viewers if they could question what they already knew with something new.
Father Tom (Henry Thomas), the priest/principal of the school does a decent job playing a fatherly figure to Alice’s daughters but when he is finally brought into the picture of battling the demon, Flanagan reduces him to a mere peasant who barely recites a few verses from the Bible before falling to his doom. And even those verses fail to inspire any form of retaliation towards the being. I was honestly expecting the Father to whip out his bottle of holy water, a sacred cross and the holy bible to exorcise the ghost. Turns out, the feeling of powerlessness from him had turned him cruel, much to an irony.
If Rotten Tomato’s ratings are anything to go by, the 80% rating there looks farfetched and it watches like something in the 50% range in my books. Sequels are generally not favoured to top the original but ultimately, Ouija: Origin of Evil is an upgrade from the first movie without a shadow of doubt. If you are relatively new to the genre; that’s great, please enjoy it. But if you frequent the frights, you will probably be as well off running a loop of that 2spooky4me meme video on YouTube.
Directed by: Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Before I Wake)
Written by: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Based on Ouija by Hasbro
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Parker Mack, Henry Thomas
Running time: 99 minutes