Growing up I recall my mom telling me never to play with a Ouija board. This kind of authoritative banter obviously made me super curious as to the reasoning behind this crazy talk– after all, it’s just a board game… right? Well, after doing my research– and by research, I mean renting some horror movies from Blockbuster Video (unfortunately, we had no internet back then)– I came to the conclusion not to fuck with that shit. My fascination over this “game” still lingers, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. Director Mike Flannigan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, nicely sums up why it’s best to not fool around with a Ouija board.
Origin of Evil tells the story of Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice, with the help of her daughters, runs a not-so-honest séance/fortune telling business that’s meant to comfort grieving customers. To add some flare to their theatrics, the eldest daughter Lina suggests they try adding a Ouija board to the gimmick. Not only did the Ouija boost business, but it also managed to summon an evil entity bent on killing everyone. Yay!
This movie was awesome. Finally, a good commercial horror flick. I haven’t seen a worthwhile horror flick in theaters since The Witch. Origin of Evil managed to give me goosebumps and entertain me for the whole hour and thirty-nine minutes. The movie had a solid story and very cool retro vibe to it. Director Mike Flannigan (Hush, Oculus) did a great job and totally takes what was a defunct idea and makes it work surprisingly well. Flannigan was also able to overcome the PG-13 rating to deliver a solid horror flick. How did he do that, you might ask: He wrote a very good, yet simple story that was able to build up tension, and used elements of horror to enhance it. The use of certain camera angles and techniques, along with scene composition, helped elevate the story past any expectations. I was expecting them to take the easy road and go into the origin of the Ouija board itself and how that was all thought up, but instead the board slips into the movie very cool and subtly, and is first introduced while hanging out with a stack of other board games. This is great because the board is not the focus of the entire flick– it only serves as an accessory to the bigger picture.
Speaking of bigger picture, the core of the movie lies with Alice and her two girls. They’re all well-developed characters that I personally enjoyed watching. Reaser does a commendable job portraying Alice, the single mom trying to keep it all together. She has a vulnerability about her, yet also shows a fierceness, and steps up to the plate when shit gets real. Her eldest daughter, Lina, also had the same character development going, where at one point she’s having her first kiss, then at another point is courageously standing up to the entity all on her own. The youngest daughter, Doris (awesomely portrayed by Wilson) steals all the scenes she’s in. There’s this one scene in particular where she has a monologue about the feeling you get when you’re strangled to death, which was just fucking choice.
The blood and gore in this one are very minimal, but it didn’t need blood or gore to make its point. The visuals are pretty rad, especially when Doris gets fully possessed by the entity– that was on point and induced several chills down my spine. The design of the entity wasn’t too original but definitely was effective, especially in that possession sequence. We also get some surprising expirations in this flick.
Ouija: Origin of Evil was a breath of fresh air. After watching the likes of 31 and Blair Witch, I had lost all hope in watching an awesome horror flick in theaters, but alas, there was a lifesaver tossed into the water by the name of Mike Flannigan, who decided to make one of the best horror pieces of the year. I highly recommend seeing this one– it has a good story, complemented by some fine acting, and wrapped up nicely with some good horror. You can’t really ask for more than that these days, and if you haven’t yet, please put director Mike Flannigan on your radar: Hopefully those rumors about him helming a Halloween reboot are true. That would be fucking dope. //Arturo Padilla