Oulja: Origin of Evil – 2016

Director Mike Flanagan
Writers Flanagan and Jeff Howard
Starring  Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas, Parker Mack, Doug Jones, Kate Siegel, Sam Anderson

The 2nd installment of the board game movie series Ouija involves a scam with good intentions. An older man (Anderson) is attending a seance with his daughter (Siegel). The conductor of the seance (Reiser) has some help formulating what communication the father and child will receive from the beyond. The message is a clear one to the old man: focus on the good, but hold onto your money. Seeing the easy tears that come to Anderson’s eyes as he believes what he’s being told, one gets the feeling that they’ve done a good job at least in casting this second film. This man is in grief, but hopeful. How could they do that in a B movie?  Why would they even push for that kind of detail?

The first story was kind of a throwaway. Kids get hooked into a board game that is tied to a house with a past. The past is kind of interesting though, and they wisely decide to mine that fertile territory for this episode.

It’s rare the horror movie sequel that makes the first one better. Most just kind of dine on the remnants of the first story. Paranormal Activity pulled it off and so, now has Ouija. The way they do it is a simple, solid story and good acting by everyone involved. Reaser and Thomas are a big improvement over anyone outside of Cooke from the first film. Basso and Wilson are solid as the two children who help their single mother Alice run her pseudo-seance operation.

Things begin to go sideways when eldest daughter Lina (Basso) gets caught sneaking out to a party involving drinking and games. Well, one game. She confides in her mother on the way home and Alice decides it might be a good idea to try it out as an additional gimmick. As she is setting it up, she unwittingly opens a door to the dead within the house to speak through her youngest, Doris (Wilson).

Things go well at first, as Doris seems to be a conduit to the same type of gentle spirits that Alice would hope they could communicate, like that of her dead husband and father to their children. He’s there, to be sure, but he’s not the dominating presence in the house.

Suffice to say this film will break the three rules of Ouija:

  • Never Play Alone
  • Never Play in a Graveyard
  • Always say Goodbye

Those broken rules do have a checklist effect on the plot. None of what results should be all that surprising.

There are some genuinely good moments though. It’s easy to appreciate Henry Thomas as the ever calm Father Tom, who sees all of the signs and doesn’t suffer the immediate decimation that most wearing the collar suffer at the hands of malevolent forces. It is also very neat to see someone show that demons will lie and it will not always be explained in an agonizing fashion later in the story. Some good decisions are made by those struggling to overcome the demons. Leaving the ending ambiguous is also a treat.

It’s not a great film, but it is a good one. If they can just leave it here. But then there is that origin before the origin…

(***1/2 out of *****)


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