October 21, 2016 marked the official theatrical release of Ouija: Origin of Evil, the supernatural horror prequel to 2014’s much-maligned Ouija, directed by Mike Flanagan and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the official early press secreening on October 18, 2016 courtesy of Universal Pictures, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas. Due to a review embargo, as well as an increased travel schedule for our crew during our very busy Halloween season, this review has not been posted until today, although it was originally written on October 20, 2016.
Before we begin, allow me to give you all full disclosure here. I had not seen the original Ouija film prior to attending this press screening, knew next-to-nothing about it, and thus had absolutely no expectations walking into it. In fact, I still haven’t, and have instead relied on the knowledge of my fellow staff members, as well as my own research on that glorious thing we call the internet. Luckily, after learning about it from the two aforementioned sources, I can assure you, it meant basically nothing anyway. That being said, let’s get down to the review, shall we?
Set in 1965, Ouija: Origin of Evil opens in suburban Los Angeles, CA in a house that might look oddly familiar to a few of you film buffs out there (no spoilers here, so I’ll just say have a look and see if you recognize it) where the Zander family, led by recently widowed mother and fortune teller, Alice (Elizabeth Reaser of the Twilight Saga, Grey’s Anatomy), has set up shop at their home conducting “seances” to communicate with the dead relatives of the locals. Unbeknownst to her customers, however, Alice is a con artist and stages all of these “seances” with the help of some rather elaborate props and her two daughters – teenage Paulina (Annalise Basso of Bedtime Stories, Oculus) and nine-year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson of The Millers).
After she and her friends try out a Ouija board, Paulina suggests that her mother incorporate one into her act. After a bit of initial resistance, Alice purchases one, rigs it up with some very clever tricks, and ultimately tests it out, where she actually contacts a real spirit. However, things soon become very strange when Doris begins to channel actual spirits, and becomes incresingly different as her obsession with the board grows. Little do any of them know, Doris has actually been possessed by a malevolent spirit known as Marcus.
There’s a lot more I could say about the plot, but for fear of accidently spoiling anything, I won’t. In fact, the only other thing I will say about the story is this… remember the three famous rules of the Ouija board:
1: Never play alone.
2: Never play in a graveyard.
3: Always say goodbye.
This film very nicely works this into the plot, and is often rather subtle about it, so it’s worth paying close attention to as you watch this one.
Based solely on what I’ve heard and understoof about the original Ouija film, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a massive improvement all-around. The retro 1960s setting is exceptionally well executed, from the wardrobes and hair, to the furniture and props, to the sets and locations, and even the use of classic/retro logos on everything – including the use of the classic Universal Pictures logo, and vintage title fonts, which were very nice little touches. The camerawork even gives off a strong retro horror feel to everything, which is only strengthened by the liberal use of overall dread and creepiness to the overall presentation, leaning heavily on these elements while only using the beyond-tired “jump scares” in very small doses throughout. Perhaps most importantly, the acting and storytelling are top-notch, which is always a welcome thing in any major release horror film.
Also worth mentioning are the (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) nods to many classic horror films, particularly The Exorcist, of which this film really feels like a love-letter to throughout almost all of its entire runtime. Again, I won’t spoil anything here, and will again simply ask that you dear readers go watch it and pick them out for yourselves.
Furthermore, for a film that literally has some scary things being shoved down the throats of its cast (you’ll see), this film doesn’t shove anything down the throats of its audience, which is a very nice change of pace in a world where so many films try to shoehorn in political ideologies, moral lessons, and social opinions to force-feed their audience with. For a good example of films that do this ad-nauseum, go watch any of George A. Romero‘s “of the Dead” films or any film with the words “The Purge” in its title. It rarely ever works with the story, and often only acts as a red flag of bad writing. This film, on the other hand, had some outstanding writing and it really shows. The ending is also particularly satisfying… which is all I’ll say, as again, you’ll just have to go see it to see what I’m talking about there.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Ouija: Origin of Evil is just an excellent horror film that absolutely delivers all-around. For all of the bad things I’ve heard about the original Ouija, this one seems to be the complete opposite in just about every category. It’s a wonderfully made film, a delightful love-letter to The Exorcist (without being an outright ripoff), and while obviously not perfect, is very entertaining, and really stands out among a sea of severely inferior recent horror films. With its perfect timing on a theatrical release near Halloween, this film is sure to be the best one you can go see during (my opinion, of course) the real most wonderful time of the year! Trust me, fellow horror fans and Halloweenies… skip Blair Witch and go see Ouija: Origin of Evil this Halloween… you can thank me later! – 8.5/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine