Friday, October 21, 2016

Ouija: Origin of Evil - Review

   Horror franchises are all the rage these days, with unneeded sequels and prequels galore that desire nothing more than quick cash grab that they garner. The original Ouija from 2014 was hardly a critical success (earning only a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes) but it did manage to make some money at over $103 million worldwide, so a sequel was inevitable. What we got is a prequel instead titled Ouija: Origin of Evil and it’s actually…good?

   In 1967 Los Angeles, widowed mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) unwittingly invites authentic evil into her home by adding a new stunt to bolster her séance scam business. When the merciless spirit overtakes her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson), the small family must confront unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

   Oddly enough the story works incredibly well in its premise. The larger narrative is about a family’s struggles with grief rather than the spooky events around them, not inciting a scare until well into the film. And because of this and pretty solid pacing, Ouija: Origin of Evil is able to establish a connection between the characters and the audience in ways many horrors cannot accomplish today.

   Each performance only adds to how well the characters are crafted. Elizabeth Reaser is completely believable as widowed mother who struggles to keep her family afloat. Lulu Wilson brings just the right amount of sweet and creepy to a girl you’re supposed to care for but also fear. And Annalise Basso plays both the worried sibling and the incredibly blinded teenager well. The only role and performance that feels out of place is Henry Thomas as Father Tom, a character whose existence in the film is purely for exposition and isn’t needed beyond that. His performance on it’s own is pretty good but everything about him being there feels off.

   It really shouldn’t come as such a shock that this ill-advised prequel turned out pretty good when you at the director. Mike Flanagan, director of two of my favorite horror films of the last few years in Oculus and Hush, takes the reigns and rights the ship on this potential franchise. He is able to build tension throughout the film until unleashing all the scares in the third act. And some of those are in fact typical or tropes, but the connection with the characters and the story make them more effective than most horror films.

   Overall, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a surprise in a month that sees so many bad horror films. The cast is great and they play well rounded characters that earn the audience’s interest. The tension that builds up is subtle and creepy, including a speech from Lulu Wilson that will certainly send shivers down your spine. Flanagan continues to build hi resume of good suspenseful horror and everyone should be watching what he does next.

   So what did you think of Ouija: Origin of Evil? Have you seen it and what did you think of the 2014 film? Subscribe, share, comment below, and as always return to I Am Sam for weekly reviews and insight.

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