In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.
The first Ouija was hands down the worst horror movie I watched in 2014. A weak, lazy, and insulting film that essentially presented the Hollywood mentality to horror as “well, the people who watch that will watch any old shit, so who cares?”
Because of the first film I was immediately skeptical of a sequel. The previous one made money, and they knew they could probably do it again. Horror fans are gasping for new content, and so it tends to make enough to justify its existence. Then the reviews for Origins of Evil started coming in and they were shockingly positive, it even sits right now at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. So, I decided it might be time to take a look; the positive reviews plus director Mike Flanagan’s consistently “fine” track record so far sucked me in.
I will say this in favor of this one: it is better than the first one. Possibly because Flanagan is a significantly better director and absolutely a better writer than Stiles White or Juliet Snowden. There are even the bones of a pretty scary little movie here, if I’m being honest, but it’s in the execution that everything comes crashing down around it. Flanagan has proven himself better than this more than once, most recently with an underrated little movie called Hush, which is a well paced and tense thriller that manages to work better than it should.
Ouija: Origins of Evil on the other hand drops the pacing, the tension, and even the aesthetic appeal that have been present in previous works by Flanagan. I’ll start with the aesthetic here: the movie just looks bad. Do you guys remember Public Enemies? That Johnny Depp movie where he plays a bank robber in the old days? It was shot on digital film, and as a result just felt completely wrong. Origins makes this same mistake, it’s set in the ’60s and is shot on digital, which makes the whole film look flat and more like these are people doing a play in costumes than characters in a film. Nothing looks quite right, and it managed to be pretty distracting through the whole film.
The movie also takes a really long time getting anywhere. It’s about 40 minutes before much of anything happens. There are hints as to where it’s going, and anyone who’s seen a horror movie ever will know where it’s going almost immediately. While a slow-burn horror film would spend this time building atmosphere and tension (like House of the Devil) this one attempts to build character where there is no character to build. Everyone is pretty well defined, and simple enough. It really feels like the time is spent to fill out the run-time, because it easily could have been 20 or 30 minutes shorter.
The ending was so rushed as well that it’s hard to imagine why they spent so much time in the beginning. It seemed like they rushed through the ending so you wouldn’t linger on it or spend to much time thinking about what was happening. It all feels so rushed through and really loses all of its impact as a result. On top of that, you’ve got the really unfortunately cheap looking visual effects. The whole stretched-open mouth thing was all over the trailers, and really looks cheap and amateurish. It’s also really poorly justified, and at one point is there for one completely unjustified shot and then it’s gone.
All in all, Ouija: Origins of Evil spends too much time setting up something that ultimately doesn’t pay off. There are a couple of memorable and spooky shots, like the little sister whispering into the older one’s ears with white eyes, or the image of the little sister walking on the roof in the final scene. Unfortunately all of this adds up to nothing at all, and the positive reviews and “certified fresh” status really do baffle me completely. Flanagan has done better, and much like the first one, we should all expect better than this.
MY RATING: **