By: Muneeb Arshid
The film about the board game is back! No, not the yet unmade Monopoly film (we all know that’s coming as well people!), rather the Halloween film about the board game prevalent in seances: Ouija.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is the follow-up film to the 2014 edition of the series: Ouija. Ouija 2, as I will call it, is a sort of prequel to the 2014 film, but not really, where the series heads back in time to 1965 Los Angeles depicting the lives of the Zander family, who are in the business of giving people the opportunity to “speak” to the spirits of their loved ones. The only connection to the previous film is that the game they play is the same, but there is no connection between the stories or the characters. Elizabeth Reaser plays the mother Alice Zander while Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson play Alice’s daughters Lina and Doris respectively. Now, the mother/daughter team knows that what they are doing is a complete sham but that doesn’t deter them from trying to spice up their routine by adding in new props. This hot new prop being introduced in the 1960s was the Ouija board.
One important figure that is also important is the father of the girls, who has passed away prior to the events of the film. Once Alice brings home the Ouija board and attaches it to her setup for her readings, the Zanders believe that it will just be another way to trick people out of their money. That is to say until Doris, the youngest of the Zanders, becomes obsessed with the board saying that she able to speak to her father’s spirit which garners mixed reactions from the other two members of the Zander clan. Doris’ abilities are able to make their once “real-but-fake” routine into a “very surreal” adventure. Much more real than the other two Zanders could ever have realized.
I’m not gonna lie, I was highly skeptical of this film, seeing how the first film was disregarded by both critics and audiences regardless of how much money it made over its budget. The trailers didn’t really help the producers either, as it made the film look like a silly mess. To an extent, the film is still a silly hot mess, however, the film does enough for you to have a boat-load of fun with it. Also, surprisingly enough, the film doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares for the entirety of the film. The first two acts are relatively tame in that regard, where the film tries to build a narrative that keeps you guessing as to where the scares will come. In a sense, those moments are the best because they keep you on edge as a viewer.
The final act of the film does resort itself to what we’ve seen become common recently in horror flicks, which would be the reliance on jump scares. But, because everyone knows what to expect by the time the third act rolls around, it is quite fun watching the shenanigans of things/people being strewn about with no regard for any lives. The film also doesn’t feel it necessary to end the film on a good note, and we find out that no one is safe, even if they were shown to be extra careful, or highly skeptical of the situation in the first two acts.
The film is also shot very nicely by cinematographer Michael Fimognari, who gets that perfect sheen of 1960s LA with the graininess on screen but also being able to utilize period details like the proper dresses and cars of that time. The use of close-up shots for most of the film allows the claustrophobic nature of the film to be apparent and add the effect of feeling uneasy while staying away from the aforementioned cheap jump scares.
Horror films these days seem to be excessively obsessed with the use of cheap, jump scares a la the Paranormal Activity series. The film resorts to that tactic later on but because we’re already primed for it, these aren’t scares that are necessarily annoying and they do seem to work with what’s been built up prior to the third act. For a film being released at Halloween amongst the Oscar run films, a decent horror film is just what we needed for a genre that has taken a lot of flack over the last few years. With four solid films in 2016 in The VVitch, The Conjuring 2, Green Room and this film, maybe the horror genre is making it’s way back in the good graces of the audience.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is amusingly scary and receives a grade of B- (7.0/10)