By Jack Dignan
This film really should've been total garbage. I didn't see the first film as I don't think it even came out here in Australia (maybe it eventually came out on DVD, but it definitely didn't receive a theatrical release), but based on the things I've heard, it doesn't look like I've been missing out on much. The first Ouija was a critical flop, and yet, I suppose the film made enough money to warrant a sequel, or in this case prequel, so here we are with Ouija: Origin of Evil, a prequel to the first film that stands on its own. The trailers made it look atrocious, and it really should've been, so to my surprise, I actually liked this film.
The film takes place in 1965, and we follow the story of the Zander family, who, for the most part, are pretty much your everyday family. The mum, Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), claims she can contact spirits, scamming the locals into paying her to talk to their dead loved ones. Her daughter Lina (Annalise Basso) is about as teenager-ish as teenagers come, her daily antics including sneaking out to hang with friends and not telling her mum about her new boyfriend, Mikey (Parker Mack). Alice's youngest daughter, Dorris (Lulu Wilson), is a little bit on the peculiar side. She doesn't get along with anyone at her school, and when Alice purchases a Ouija board to help create a sense of realism in her scamming, Dorris decides to give it a go one late night, welcoming in some not so friendly spirits into the Zander household.
The premise for Ouija: Origin of Evil is nothing original, but such is the case for a great deal of horror movies. For the most part, when it comes to horror, I find that the best films are the ones that utilise these very basic premises to their advantage, creating a chilling, unforgettable experience. Of course, this isn't always the case, as every so often a good original premise does come along, such as Lights Out earlier this year, and it usually makes for a good movie. But those seem to be becoming more and more scarce within this genre, and I don't really mind, so long as the film does end up being scary, which it does in the case of Ouija.
I want to say that this movie gets off to a slow start, but it doesn't. In fact, when it comes to pacing, this film actually moves surprisingly fast. It's just not that scary to begin with. For the first thirty to forty minutes, there wasn't really any memorable scares. There's a couple of moments that get close to raising my heart beat, but for the most part, it's all about set up. It's introducing the characters, setting up the evil spirits and getting things underway. It managed to maintain my interest, despite not actually being all that scary. I was enjoying it, but only to a limited degree. If it kept going like this for the rest of the movie, I probably wouldn't have ended up liking it.
When it does get to the start of the second act, that's when I was really, really starting to enjoy this film. Everything was kicked up a notch, from the performances to the directing to the overall creepiness. Sure, it does have its fair share or clichés, such as the sheets being pulled off of the bed, but for the most part, director Mike Flanagan manages to create an authentic and seriously eerie horror movie that's full of terrifying visuals and heart pounding suspense. The terrifying nature he creates manages to last for the entirety of the second act, and well into the third.
His terror just manages to build and build and build, until eventually everything falls apart, and it becomes what I originally expected this movie to be. It's a corny, over the top, completely stupid and utterly ridiculous finale that I can only presume was done to make it tie into the original film. Like I said, I haven't seen the original film, nor do I have any intention to, but after a quick IMDb search I did find some connections and characters that cross over. If the finale was created as a tie-in, it would make sense, but it doesn't stop it from being a cheap, poorly written, purely unbelievable finale that ends the film on a sour note.
To sum up, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a well paced and authentically eerie horror movie that's full of terrifying visuals, heart pounding suspense, excellent and creepy performances and great direction. It doesn't necessarily get off to an all that scary start, but when things get going, this film is seriously creepy, all before they go and ruin it during the finale.