Ask me anything about 2014’s “Ouija” film and the most I could probably tell you is that it starred the young girl from “Bates Motel.” And that it was mostly forgettable if not a little dull to watch. But the film did well at the box office, so it wasn’t too surprising that it got a sequel. However, what is shocking is how this sequel compares to the original.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” centers on the Zander family. The family consists of the recently widowed mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), her daughter Lina (Annalise Basso), and the youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson). To make ends meet after the death of her husband, Alice has turned to palm reading and seances to generate a bit of income from the home. For Alice and her family these are nothing but cheap parlour tricks used to bring people a bit of comfort and to keep the family in their home. However, when the mother decides to bring a Ouija board into the act she inadvertently exposes her youngest daughter to a malevolent spirit.
One of the charms of “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is that the film fully embraces its 1967 setting. As the film opens we’re treated to a retro title card that looks like it was pulled right out of the era it’s set in. The film is plastered with music from the decade and the imagery is so crisp and clean that it pulls you into that bygone period. It’s very evocative of “The Conjuring” in that way as it does a great job of building that world and making it feel like a film from a time and place we either remember from experience or through cultural osmosis.
Another positive about the film is that the characters are well written and given depth and personality. They may not be wholly original character types, but the film lays enough groundwork for them that they feel fully realized. Alice is the mother who is stretched beyond her means by tragedy and financial hardship, but still is the heart of the family. Then there’s Lina who has embraced a bit of a rebellious nature in response to the hardships. And of course Doris balances things out by being the innocent face of the family that stumbles into trouble.
Speaking of Doris I’d like to go ahead and nominate Doris for the creepy kid hall of fame. She isn’t the best creepy kid I’ve ever seen, but damn it, she nails it. Even in scenes where she’s just standing there staring at people she has this ability of making your skin crawl. She also has some pretty lofty scenes where she has to deliver a lot of complicated dialog, like describing how it feels to be choked to death, and she does it exceptionally well. If you’re like me and really hate terrible child actors you’ll be pleased to know that little Lulu Wilson delivers a great performance.
Then there’s Father Tom, the loveable priest who comes to the families aid in their time of need. Tom is played by actor Henry Thomas, who if you don’t know, is Elliot from “E.T.” Father Tom is your typical priest character that offers sage advice to all of the characters and is pillar of strength for the family, but even his character has a past that gives him some semblance of depth.
And while the film presents a solid premise, well conceived characters, and a great setting it doesn’t get pull it all together with a cohesive plot. On the surface the story is straightforward. There’s a bad spirit possessing a little girl and the rest of the characters have to get it out. However, once you start picking at the spirits motivations and how it works exactly the whole thing starts to fall a part. This is one of those films that is best described as a horror house thrillride. In the moment you don’t question what you’re seeing because you’re too preoccupied with the jumpscares and the creepy behavior of Doris to see where things don’t make sense. But once I had time to digest the plot there were plenty of minor details at the end that just left me feeling like there were pieces of the plot either missing or glossed over.
The other nitpick I have regarding the film is the use of some CGI scares. There aren’t a whole lot, thankfully, but the film seems to absolutely love the image of the girl with the elongated mouth and it sets out to use it as often as it can. I guess once you’ve spent the money on the effect you might as well get as much mileage out of it as you can. To be fair though, when it comes to CGI offenses, this film is on the low end. There’s very little of it here, but when it pops up it can kind of be jarring.
Overall this is a solid horror film that’ll appeal to people looking for a good October scare. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s very entertaining and it’s a fun experience that’ll leave you feeling satisfied. It is utterly remarkable that a movie like this was able to come out of a subpar film like the original “Ouija.” Even if that movie tainted your expectations for the brand, I would still recommend going to see this one.