It’s almost Halloween and there’s been a shortage of horror films. The only other scary film I can remember this year was The Witch and that came out in April. So, in the spirit of the season I went to see Ouija: Origin of Evil, a prequel to the 2014 film that I hadn’t even heard of before I looked it up after seeing this film. Pumping out another film when the original wasn’t that great (apparently) is a sure sign of creative bankruptcy, so I wasn’t that optimistic. Still, I’d rather be punched in the fact than watch that Jack Reacher film which, incidentally, is also made after the original wasn’t that great (apparently). Huh.
In 1965 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.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is set in the 1960s, making this a ‘period piece’ of sorts. My goodness was it ever saturated in the aesthetic of the time. Not the hippie counterculture everyone thinks of when we talk the 1960s but the ordinary non-tie-dyed reality that the counterculture was rebelling against. The cars, the clothes, the hair, the props, the way people talked, the decorations, it felt completely authentic. Even the movie quality was shot to look like an old 1960s film, with the saturated colours and 1960s credit font added to the effect. It may not have been visually stunning but it was consistent – I loved the way this movie looked.
Every horror movie has rules and Ouija: OoE sets them up early. Don’t play by yourself, don’t play in a graveyard and always say good-bye. Unlike most horror films where the rules are generally followed, NOBODY seemed to take Ouija’s rules seriously, so it really isn’t that much of a surprise when all hell breaks loose. Except that by the time it happens, it IS kindof a surprise. Ouija OoE is a slow burn; it takes its time, sets the stage, establishes characters and relationships and only then does it even hint that something sinister is going to happen. By the way, there were jump scares. Normally I take a dim view of this, but the horror of Ouija: OoE doesn’t rely on its jump scares. It relies on its foreshadowing to instill actual fear. We are warned well in advance when the jump scares are coming and it actually made those moments scarier.
I liked the characters. And it’s worth mentioning that there were really only three main characters, all of whom were female. See folks? It can be done, and without the hullabaloo that came with Ghostbusters. It was important that we could relate to the characters first, see their stories and what’s at stake, before unleashing supernatural evil on them. And the entire movie was carried by Lulu Wilson’s performance. She was exactly as sympathetic, creepy, ambiguous or terrifying as the situation needed her to be. I mean Annalise Basso and Elizabeth Reaser were good too (and all the other actors, some of whom were men) but Lulu Wilson was the heart of this film.
Minor spoilers in this paragraph. Teasing is important in a horror film, things can’t start off that bad, they have to foreshadow and slowly get bad. Ouija teased us wonderfully, with the audience knowing more than the characters as the trap slowly closed. But once it REALLY got up to speed and the horror was actually occurring, it seemed like it was over too quickly. Once they found out what they were up against, their options seemed pretty limited and too quickly the film was over. I get that this was ‘Horror’ and not ‘Action’ or even ‘Thriller’, but still. The strength of this film was the sense of dread, once it gave that up, there wasn’t much it was left that it could do.So is Ouija: Origin of Evil worth seeing? If you like horror then I say yes. It’s one of the better horror films I’ve seen and there does seem to be a dearth of scary movies this year. It was legitimately scary and well made. It’s good enough I actually want to see the first one just for comparison but Ouija OoE doesn’t need that film, it stands up perfectly well on its own.