Director: Mike Flanagan
Script: Jeff Howard & Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lula Wilson, Parker Mack, Henry Thomas, Doug Jones
Running time: 99 minutes
Having seen the first ‘Ouija’ film, which I’d enjoyed a lot more than I’d expected, I was keen to check out Universal’s sequel, or rather prequel as this is set some years before the events of the first film, during 1967, to be precise. The good thing about this film though is, because it’s a prequel, it probably helps not to have already seen the first film before watching this one.
The film opens with a fake séance orchestrated by a middle-aged mother, Alice, (Reaser), ably assisted by her two, hidden-away daughters, teenager Lina (Basso) and nine-year-old Doris (Wilson). Money is tight and to make ends meet Alice is plying a spiritualist’s trade, which has kind of run in the family for generations.
Everything changes when, about to be evicted, little Doris hears advice from a spirit who claims to be the deceased father, who she’s somehow communicated with through a Ouija board game. The spirit guides Doris to a stash of cash in the basement, hidden behind a wall. With the mortgage payments taken care of for a while, the mother then uses her youngest daughter’s newly acquired attributes to build up the family’s reputation for being a reliable purveyor of spiritual advice. As business booms fractures in the family grow as Doris seems to become possessed by something not of this world. And when the local priest gets involved all hell breaks loose.
Ouija: Origin of Evil, as these kinds of films go, isn’t half bad. The acting is above par, with some nice performances from all the central characters, and the direction is solid. Flanagan is obviously a fan of old school dramatic horror and, quite rightly, doesn’t see the need for lots of shaky cam and unnecessary OTT visual effects, although some CGI is employed to distort faces and help create a sense of otherworldliness.
There are some good period details to be seen, in the form of automobiles and late sixties fashions, which help to give the impression that a fair bit of money was spent on the production. And the music score works well, supporting the dramatic elements without ever taking the viewer out of the moment. In fact, there’s some nicely realised creepy scenes involving characters peering through the board game’s planchette, allowing them to see any spirits present in a room – one scene even made me jump, which doesn’t happen often. Another favourite unsettling scene of mine involved a dream sequence where one of the characters finds her mouth sewn shut.
There are also some none horror scenes to savour; in particular, I liked the scenes featuring Lena and her hopeful boyfriend Mikey, which were very sweet.
I’m sure some critics would say that Ouija: Origins of Evil is another case of ‘horror movie making by numbers’, and while it’s not particularly original it still stands on its own two feet as a satisfying supernatural chiller, complete with an ending that just about works, although I wasn’t so impressed by the post credit coda!
Oh, and look out for the homage to The Exorcist, when the priest arrives at the family home, and stands for a moment looking up at the house’s imposing architecture. Plus, there’s a brief nod to The Exorcist 3: Legion right at the end, but I’m not saying any more…
Universal Pictures are distributing Ouija: Origin of Evil on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras on the disc include:
Deleted scenes (17 mins) – seven scenes in total; most of which didn’t deserve to make the final cut;
The making of Ouija: Origin of Evil (9 mins) – bog standard EPK type stuff, but worth a look anyway;
Home is where the horror is (5 mins) – mini-documentary focusing on the location used, which was a real house;
The girl behind Doris (4 mins) – mini doc regarding the spirit inhabiting the character of Doris;
Feature length commentary with the director Mike Flanagan.