Rules Were Made To Be Broken (Ouija: Origin of Evil review)
I haven’t had a lot of experiences with ouija boards. My upbringing saw quick to that resolution. If you’re Catholic or any other kind of Christian denomination and your family is serious about their beliefs, it kinda sticks with you.
That being said, I was a teenager once, barely out of elementary school, headed straight into puberty town. And yes I did play with a ouija board, but thankfully, I didn’t get these results.
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Cast: Annalise Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas
Director: Mike Flanagan
released on blu-ray January 17, 2017
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Audience Score 59%
The Guardian: ***/*****
Mike Flanagan is an American film maker. Already known for making horror films, of which he directs, writes, and edits himself, Flanagan has released Absentia, Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Before I Wake all within the last five years. His next planned film project is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game.
Flanagan originally started making dramas as a film student, but had written Oculus with horror film elements, and so he shot a portion of the film which included a back story to demonstrate his greater range. The move paid off and got him attention in the industry, though no major studios wanted to give him the reins or produce the film under his full direction, so he launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce Absentia. Absentia eventually made its way to Netflix, and after that Flanagan was able to get Intrepid Pictures on board to produce Oculus, which paved the way for his next four films.
Ouija: Origins of Evil is one of four films that Flanagan has released in 2016. A prequel to the 2014 flop Ouija, this movie gives context to the reason why the Ouija board is evil and what the motivations of Paulina Zander are.
Origins of Evil is set in the 1960s, where widow Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) works as a medium, supported by daughters, Paulina “Lina” (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice stages her seances, but really wants to help people move on. When Lina suggests adding a Ouija board into the routine, Alice unknowingly contacts a spirit named Marcus. Marcus poses as her husband Roger and even helps the family find money in the house to prevent a foreclosure, but he eventually possesses Doris because she unknowingly breaks all three rules of the ouija board – never play alone, never play in a graveyard, and always say goodbye.
Lina notices the change in her sister and brings it to the attention of Father Tom (Henry Thomas) at school, hoping he will interpret her sudden knowledge of Polish. Father Tom visits the family and pretends that he wants contact with his dead wife Gloria. He tricks the spirit into repeating answers he was thinking, proving it is not Gloria. He reveals this to Lina and Alice, while possessed Doris is left alone. While this is happening Lina’s boyfriend shows up and Doris kills him.
Father Tom, Alice, and Lina decide to burn the ouija board and then Father Tom discovers that the house is an unofficial graveyard for a doctor that captured people and experimented on them during WWII. Father Tom is possessed by the spirits in a hidden room of the basement, is possessed, regains consciousness, and is then killed by Doris.
Alice is captured and Lina knocked out, but Lina has a vision where she learns from her father that Doris’ mouth needs to be stitched to shut out the voices. Lina wakes, pins Doris and accomplishes the deed, killing her in the process. After this, Lina is temporarily possessed and stabs Alice. Alice dies, but sees Roger and Doris together and heads towards them. Fast forward two months, Lina has been committed and is suspected of murder. The doctor cannot get much out of her, and leaves. We learn he is still watching Lina and witnesses her attempt to summon her sister. Behind the doctor, Doris crawls across the ceiling.
Pros: Skillfully presenting the period in which it is set, this film is visually appealing, and the premise is interesting. Definitely more successful of what it presents then its predecessor.
Cons: It manages to be both derivative and wildly disruptive in it’s pacing, building slowly at first and then running at a breakneck pace to tie up lose ends and force a plot. It is difficult to watch at times, but mostly because there is nothing there.
Runtime: 1hour 39 minutes
Points of Interest: The Universal Pictures 1963-90 title design was used to add to the retro feel. The real Hasbro Ouija board does not contain the 3 instructions portrayed in the movie. Doris isn’t possessed in the traditional sense… the spirits break her back when entering it, killing her. For the rest of the film it is just her possessed corpse housing the spirits.
Ouija: Origin of Evil might not be a perfect take on the horror genre, as it duplicates a lot of what has preceded it, however it does feature some interesting moments of exploration, not enough to spare us from the timewasting qualities found in cookie-cutter horror. That said, it is definitely better than the original and visually appealing. You might find yourself taking up that planchette and hovering around.
I’m glad no one in my family got possessed after that encounter with a ouija board as a teenager, though admittedly my cousins and I did scare the shit out of my baby brother, and now he scares everyone whenever he can. So maybe there is a lesson to be learned from this movie. Don’t mess with stuff you don’t understand. At least that’s my theory.