Written By Tommy Tracy
Ouija: Origin Of Evil Plot Summary:
In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her, and send her possessor back to the other side.
*Spoilers For The First Film*
Anyone who saw 2014’s Ouija can pretty much say that is was not only one of the worst horror films of 2014, but also one of the worst films of that year. So when it became common knowledge that Universal was making a sequel, I planned to skip it. But then Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) took control of the ship. My interest was piqued. Flanagan is a truly underrated filmmaker who has a visceral way of approaching a horror movie. Could he, however, create a decent film based off one of the stupidest ideas ever conceived? Well, surprisingly, he does and it may be one of the creepiest films of the year.
The film takes place in 1967 Los Angeles, where Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) works as a fortune teller, conning people out of their money with the help of her two daughters, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). When an Ouija board comes into their lives, Doris uses it to speak to her recently deceased father. However, she awakens something more. Something evil that wants to use her as a conduit for, well, evil. Scary things occur. Demons are seen, and story wise, it’s not incredibly different from the last go around. Yes, if you’ve seen one possession story, you’ve seen this one, but the power lies in every aspect of filmmaking that went into making this.
Flanagan makes you nervous at every turn. There’s a common trope in today’s horror films. They’re what I call “undeserved scares”, also known as jump scares. The first had these a-plenty, trying to scare its audience with loud sounds or friends who aren’t a threat jumping out of nowhere. Flanagan does not do this, instead deciding to scare you by just putting the evil on screen. It’s incredibly affective and harkens back to films such as Halloween, where you could see the monster out of focus and in the shadows. No loud music, and no stupid friends popping out of nowhere. It works, and it’s the film’s biggest strength.
Something else Flanagan and company do incredibly well is making the film feel like it belongs in the 60’s. From the old Universal logo to the archaic title card (which includes a copyright and Roman Numerals for you older film fanatics), this film could easily have been made in 1967. There are even cue marks placed at timely parts of the film. Cue marks, also known as cigarette burns, were marks placed by editors to inform the projectionists when to change the film. This, of course, was done before digital filmmaking, but it exemplifies the care these editors took with crafting a piece to feel of the time.
Horror movies are not known for their brilliant acting, but everyone does a pretty remarkable job here. Reaser plays Alice with a fantastic motherly instinct, putting her children’s needs before her own. She’s tortured, lonely and in search for answers to her problems. Basso is also very good as older sister Paulina. She’s protective, yet vulnerable. But the real standout is Doris, the nine-year-old conduit of the evil in the house. She is insanely creepy, conveying horror with her looks and soft-spoken manner. She puts Gage from Pet Semetary to shame.
If I had one nitpick, there’s a very obvious CGI shot. For the most part, practical effects are used, but in one instant the CGI looks as though it belongs in the early 2000’s. I also didn’t make the connection to the first film until much later. The house, characters and Ouija board are all key factors in the first film, but I didn’t know that until the very end. I recalled back to thinking that there was a character named Doris in that one and had to do some outside research. However, the less I think about that original piece of garbage, the better off I’ll be.
Ouija: Origins of Evil is a gigantic improvement on its predecessor. Flanagan brought his own aura to this film and made it his own. He took his source material and improved upon it. He also made it terrifying, something that is not only rare in this day and age, but almost impossible to do in PG-13 horror. Just skip that 2014 film and watch this one!
Final Grade: 9/10