Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil

Set in the late 60s, widowed Elizabeth Reaser runs a phony psychic scam with her two daughters (Lulu Wilson and Annalise Basso) helping her out. However, when Reaser starts to use a Ouija board as a prop in her act, things get freaky for real. Youngest daughter Wilson claims her deceased father is now communicating with her from the spirit world. Local priest Henry Thomas (!) is particularly worried, and before long the little girl appears to be possessed. But by whom or what?

I wasn’t looking forward to this. I didn’t see the first film, and although I only learned through this film that a Ouija board is actually considered and sold as a family board game, I knew that they are complete bullshit at the very least. Everyone knows that Outside of a kiddie horror pic, I just didn’t think it would work as a source of horror and menace. Well, as it turns out this 2016 flick from director Mike Flanagan (the rather underrated “Oculus”) and his co-writer Jeff Howard (also from “Oculus”) isn’t bad. I can’t give it outright praise but it’s certainly not the turd I was expecting.

The production design and the low-level lighting by Michael Fimognari (“The Lazarus Effect”) are excellent, though the attempt in giving it a retro setting falls apart due to the seemingly too modern younger members of the cast. Actually showing us that Ouija boards were sold as board games doesn’t help, either. Elizabeth Reaser is good though, as the mother and modern or not, young Lulu Wilson is even more impressive in a tricky part. Henry Thomas however, is unpersuasive as a widowed priest. Truth be told, I have to say that phony mediums are as much of a movie cliché as supposedly real ones, but I did like the idea of young Wilson questioning why her mother can communicate with seemingly every dead person except the girl’s father. I think there’s something genuinely creepy about a malevolent spirit pretending to be the spirit of a little girl’s dead father. I’ve also always liked the ‘bed sheets suddenly pull themselves off the bed while you’re in it’ bit. If that really did happen it’d scare the shit out of you for sure. Ultimately though it’s too reliant on Ouija board nonsense and ‘jump’ scares for my liking.

A cute idea in theory that doesn’t quite come off, despite a really nice look and good work by Elizabeth Reaser and young Lulu Wilson in particular. It doesn’t help that Ouija boards are bullshit, either but thankfully it’s only part of the horrors going on here. Call it somewhat of a backhanded compliment, but this wasn’t the turkey I expected. It’s just not very good, and openly admitting that your film is ‘based on the board game’ is just silly when you’re trying to scare people.

Rating: C+


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