Los Angeles 1965 and a widowed mother and her two daughters add a ouija board to bolster their séance business, a scam they’ve been running for some time. But they have unwittingly invited authentic evil into their home, and 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.
Review by Tommy Draper
Set in 1965, Ouija: Origin of Evil tells the tale of mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters who hold fake séances to make money out of those looking for comfort from their loved ones. They aren’t a bad family, they just need money and, as the mother justifies, they are giving people peace and understanding. In a way, that is what this family is searching for since the passing of their father some time earlier in the story.
It might shock you to know that Ouija: Origin of Evil is, in fact, a sequel/prequel (not many people saw the first one). But fear not if you haven’t seen the 2014 original for this film works brilliantly as a standalone shocker. And an excellent one it is too.
Starting with the family doing their regular séance and setting up a lot of clever funny moments, the film then swiftly moves on to the introduction of the ouija board. For those of you not in the know, these boards were incredibly popular in the 60’s and 70’s, spawning many scare stories and films (you may have just heard of one called The Exorcist). Amazingly they were originally sold as a family game (incidentally, there is a credit to the game company, stating that this film based on the board game!). For a while, you’ll be watching this expecting a standard ouija board, séance goes wrong, possession/creatures released horror, but Ouija has a lot more to offer. Of course, it has those things, but there is also a great backstory here, kept under wraps until the shocking reveal so as not to spoil things.
One of the standout features of this film is the attention to detail of the 1960’s setting, something many other films drop the ball with. And whilst the plot takes its time, it manages to focus squarely on the family drama, building characters expertly so they feel real. The cast of Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic), Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight), Lulu Wilson and Henry Thomas (Elliot from E.T., doing great work as Father Tom) all deliver spot-on, authentic performances and, although in this day and age it really shouldn’t still be a thing to notice, the women in the film aren’t overshadowed or even need to be saved by men, instead taking matters into their own hands. Horror makers everywhere take note – the damsel in distress has surely had her day.
For all you eagle-eyed film geeks out there, keep a look out for the ‘cigarette burns’ put in to let the projectionist know when to change film reels. Completely and utterly pointless of course, as all multiplexes use digital films these days, it’s this level of detail that shows the love and care poured into the film. It would be churlish to moan that there is still large amounts of CGI, which is a shame, but churlish we will be. Budget restrictions mean effects will need to be done cheaply and, at times, that shows.
The screenplay is full of great lines, many of them very knowing of the genre and it’s clichés, the best of all coming when the family descend into the basement. After initially deciding to go off in different directions (the standard horror way to kill off your cast one by one) the eldest daughter simply suggest that they, “stay together. Splitting up would be stupid”, which is both a great line to break some of the tension for the audience and wonderfully self-aware at the same time. It sums up all that has gone before and all that is going to come in the finale; this family aren’t splitting up, they will stand by each other through thick and thin, a sentiment the film carries throughout.
A lot of recent horrors have been pretty one-note, relying on jump-scares alone for effect. A good horror is rare, a good horror sequel even more so and whilst Ouija: Origin of Evil isn’t perfect, it has bags of emotion, an unpredictable plot, and those expected great jump-scares to boot.