Friday, October 21, 2016

Movie Review #507: "Ouija: Origin of Evil" (2016)

Movie"Ouija: Origin of Evil"
Director: Mike Flanagan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
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A widow named Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) works as a spiritual medium to earn money with help from her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson), though her powers are mostly just an act designed to give people comfort and closure. When she gets a brand new Ouija board to help her in her work, it opens a spiritual conduit through her daughter Doris. Unfortunately, the spirit they let in may be far more dangerous than they could have imagined.

Petition to let Mike Flanagan direct all of the inevitable prequels to the other terrible horror movies out there??

"Ouija: Origin of Evil" is a prequel to the 2014 dumpster fire that is "Ouija." Luckily this time around, Mike Flanagan takes over the directorial duties, and he also penned the screenplay along with Jeff Howard. Mike Flanagan is best known for his horror films "Oculus" and "Hush," which we really, really liked. This film jumps back to 1967 and focuses on the Zander family. It stars Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, and Annalise Basso who play Alice, Doris, and Lina Zander. Joining them are Henry Thomas, who plays Father Tom, the principal of the private school the girls attend, and Parker Mack, who plays Lina's would-be love interest.

It is amazing on how much of a difference a director makes in creating quality. The original "Ouija," which we just recently and reluctantly watched again, is a boring, cliche-ridden trash movie with a terrible narrative, an overload of jump scares, atrocious acting, and a far too serious tone for a movie about a board game. In this prequel, however, Flanagan is able to create a fantastic and believable atmosphere, develop consistent tension, and generate some genuinely creepy visuals along the way. Sure, there are still some jump scares, but not in the constant barrage of loud noises we've come to expect from characters inexplicably and constantly sneaking up on each other like its predecessor.

Flanagan is able to take the same subject matter, a Ouija board that can actually channel the dead, and make a proper film out of it. Hell, he even throws in several elements from the original, like the solid white eyes of characters who have been possessed and mouths being stitched shut, and puts them to far better use here. He even uses brilliant techniques to capture the era of the 60's that go above and beyond simple decade related costuming and props. At the very beginning of the the film, the entire thing opens with the era-appropriate Universal logo, and throughout the film, he has added imperfections on the picture quality, including cigarette burns and reel jump flickers, to make "Ouija: Origin of Evil" look like it's being projected with an old school film projector rather than the digital projectors used in theaters today. What attention to detail!

The acting this time around is also much, much better and is far more convincing. We really believe Elizabeth Reaser as a now single mom struggling after the loss of her husband to pick up the pieces of her life and provide for her kids. She butts heads with her eldest daughter, Annalise Basso's Lina, who is clearly not over the death of her father and is acting out because of her pain. She is much more skeptical of her mother's line of work than her younger sister, Lulu Wilson's Doris, the eventual conduit for the other side. Often times with child actors, they feel stiff and unprepared for their work on the big screen. Wilson, however, channels the perfect amount of sweet and innocent daughter mixed with horrible, creepy demon kid. The casting department deserves a lot of props because these three actresses look like they could really be related to one another.

We are pleasantly surprised by "Ouija: Origin of Evil." It may be the most improved second installment in cinematic history. The best part is, because this is a prequel, you don't even have to watch the turd sandwich that is the original in order to see this one. "Origin of Evil" is fully capable on standing on its own and is certainly worth checking out, even if you're massively skeptical like we were.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~80%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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