In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance 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.
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Even though 2014's Ouija
disappointed critics and fans alike, it fared well enough at the box office for an inevitable sequel to be green-lit. Ouija: Origin of Evil
is built to please; it's a sequel that has very little to do with the original movie.
Set in 1967, Ouija: Origin of Evil
is built around a phony medium named "Madame" Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser from the Twilight
movies) and her two daughters, fifteen-year-old Lina and nine-year-old Doris (Annalise Basso from Oculus
and Lulu Wilson from Deliver Us from Evil
, respectively). One night, Lina goes to a party where a Ouija board is being used, and convinces Alice to add one to their act. While the ladies are trying out their new toy, a spirit attaches itself to little Doris. At first, the ghost is helpful, doing Doris' homework and helping bolster the family business. Before long, however, it becomes clear that whatever has taken possession of Doris will not give her up without a fight.
The smartest thing that producers Jason Blum and Michael Bay did with Ouija: Origin of Evil
was to hire Mike Flanagan to direct. After 2013's Oculus
and this year's Hush
, Flanagan is a hot hand in the horror world right now, and he gives the Ouija
franchise a kick in its pants. Flanagan penned the screenplay with writing partner Jeff Howard, and while it sticks with some of the mythology and methodology of the first movie, it stands very well on its own. Better than very well. Actually, it may not be saying much, but Ouija: Origin of Evil
is a better movie than Ouija
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that Ouija: Origin of Evil
is a prequel to Ouija
; as if the fact that it takes place in the sixties wasn't enough of a clue, the word "origin" is right there in the title. Honestly though, it's not reliant on the original at all. It's only about halfway through the movie that the viewer understands that the stories are related - and even then, only the astute viewers who remember enough about the first movie will make the connection. For those who don't realize what's going on, it's still a spookily enjoyable little possession movie with just a touch of the The Conjuring
Ouija: Origin of Evil
has a PG-13 rating, so it goes without saying that it is geared towards a younger audience. The kids are the heroes, particularly Lina and her would-be boyfriend, Mikey (Parker Mack from "Faking It"). And the kids are great; their scenes make the movie. It's when the focus shifts to the adults, Alice and the girls' catholic school principal, Father Tom (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
's Henry Thomas), that the film starts to get clunky. The grown-ups are awkward and stiff, but maybe that's the point - if the kids are who the audience relates to, then shouldn't the adults be uncool?
Ouija: Origin of Evil
hits all the horror movie high notes - the swarming sound effects, the moody-and-melodic score, the CG enhanced gymnastics - but does so in a way that doesn't make it feel like an imitation of a superior movie. Next up for Mike Flanagan is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel Gerald's Game
, a book that seems as if it would be unfilmable. Flanagan is a competent and confident filmmaker, so there can be little doubt that he's got it all figured out.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
is a pretty tame horror movie, but that's to be expected of any fright flick with a PG-13 rating. There are a handful of softened-up jump scares that are accentuated by blasting synthesizer punches as well as some creepy paranormal photographic tricks, but it's all pretty vanilla. The fact that the movie is light on scares combined with the likeable children in the leads makes Ouija: Origin of Evil
a pretty decent gateway horror movie for the kids of today - it may be this generation's The Gate
, or Something Wicked This Way Comes
. Or maybe not. But Ouija: Origin of Evil
isn't going to give many kids nightmares.