† H a p p y   H a l l o w e e n †

This one I recommend.

This one I recommend.

Back to the good stuff.

Back to the good stuff.

I gotta come clean. I have not seen the first Ouija, but since the second installment in the series fills the function of a prequel, I suspect the only thing I’m missing out on is the occasional reference to the story taking place after this. As I watched this film, I never got the impression that there existed another movie that I should have seen first. Might as well see them in chronological order.

ouija

I dare not ask.

What actually made me interested in seeing Ouija: Origin of Evil was not only the promise of seeing my favorite monster-actor Doug Jones as a nightmarish surgeon and a demonic being (a piece of advertising that is sadly only 50% true), but also the general consensus that this feels like a film from an older chapter of cinematic history; an era that either brought us unsurpassable horror classics or horror movies we loved to laugh at. The first sign of this is in the film’s first minute, where we’re treated to the old-school Universal Pictures logo.

Ouija is a “slower” horror film than what the average fan will be used to in this day and age, but this only amplifies its effect. It creates memories of everything from Friedkin’s Exorcist to Spielberg’s E.T., as it stars both a demonic child and Henry Thomas all grown up. Much like Stranger Things, this is thus a work that may work off of our nostalgia for a certain era of storytelling and lore, but still does something unique with its hodge-podge of old ideas. If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2016 it’s that we shouldn’t always eat the Member Berries, but this particular batch of Berries has at least been cooked right.

Set in a gorgeously realized 1967 and mostly starring gifted unknowns, the story depicts a psychic, Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser), who summons something truly wicked from the Great Beyond while practicing a session with her newly aqcuired Ouija board; something that works its way into the body and mind of her youngest child (Lulu Wilson). She also has a teenaged daughter named Lina (Annalise Basso), who assists her in staging her less authentic seances. An ambitious move, in my opinion. Most mediums I’ve heard of would settle for guessing that you’ve lost someone whose name begins with a letter in the Latin alphabet, and then explain that the spirits will not give her any further signs of their presence until she gets more money.

ouija-eyesAs the forces of darkness enter their home, as well as what claims to be the ghost of the dead father, the family enlists the help of a priest, which is where Henry Thomas comes in. And of course, we also get to see the always simultaneously fearsome and invitingly gracious Doug Jones do what he does best. As I just described him, I’m talking mainly about how he performs with his body. In terms of personality, he can be enjoyably despicable in film and an absolute cinnamon roll in the real world.

Ouija was directed by Mike Flanagan and amongst its producers is none other than Michael Bay, but I can reassure you that the film is free from his finger prints (as much as I admittedly semi-enjoyed his 13 Hours, Bay is still very much Bay). Its cast is talented and its images are memorable, as is the ambience and music that follows along.

The camera work and art direction help set the mood and pull you into the film’s universe, where you feel even in the moments of calmness and safety that horrible beings exist in a dimension parallel to that of our protagonists. I don’t know if the original was this good but I am to understand that it wasn’t, and that Ouija: Origin of Evil is more than a follow-up made for its own sake, or perhaps the sake of scrilla. This was made for people who care, by people who care, with no need for lazy tricks or A-list actors; just good horror filmmaking, plain and simple. Yes, some of it is a little hard to take seriously and there are clichés, yet I feel like that was part of the point. This movie knows perfectly well what kind of film it is.

If you’ve ever felt that there’s a certain feeling of dread and foreboding missing in most mainstream horror movies these days, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a film to consider; one that goes back a few years and tells a tale most dreadful without the gimmicks and cheats you’re used to. And if you’re unhappy that this is a prequel rather than a sequel, be assured that there exist several knock-off sequels that you can probably either watch online for free or buy on VHS at your local purveyor of Asylum productions and hideous bootlegs.

4/5 whatever

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