- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Armed with a healthy dose of much needed restraint, director Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and co-writer Jeff Howard collaborate to save Ouija: Origin of Evil from the haunting lows of its predecessor. It’s incredible to see just how much better the prequel is when compared to the original offering. It is literally of case of night and day differences. Much can be improved with a solid script and these two have just that in hand. Putting the family aspect first, the narrative eases us into a nightmare situation in which the threats from the supernatural feel as palpable as the characters.
Blumhouse Productions was brave enough to put up the money for the sequel when the original was shredded by the printed word. Critics and audiences didn’t agree once again on what they were seeing. The film, originally released in 2014, managed to just barely break the $100 million mark. That was enough for the production company to make an earnest attempt at a better movie a second time around. Thankfully, they did just that. While the film is grossly uneven, it does itself a couple of favors up front. The old cast has been flushed. The setting has been changed. Immediately, there are noticeable improvements.
Welcome to 1965. The blue canvas above a very sunny L.A. never looked as clean as it does here. The sky is clear and the sunsets are awash with wine-like colors. There is hope and optimism in the air. Perfect elements for one family – the widowed Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and daughters, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) – to run cons on grieving individuals desperate to hear from their dearly departed loved ones. They truly believe that what they are doing is assisting people. Finding closure is part of the healing process claims the Zander family.
Throw a Ouija board into the mix and suddenly the ability to speak with the dead becomes serious business. Turns out, Doris has talents of her own in that regard. With the help of some character performances from Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), some of the figures on the other side translate into really sick human mimicry. These creatures are slinky and freaky, striking poses only Jones can master.
Slide Henry Thomas in the flick as Father Tom AND as the "love" interest for Reaser and, while his character is certainly not needed, you have a nice combination of talent that flushes out the fictional lives of these characters. Wait until you get a load of Wilson. She’s stunning in her role and will suck the breath right out of you in her key sequence of possession.
Unfortunately, the puzzling piece is the whole aspect of the film’s marketing campaign. Are we so sure that horror only gets asses in seats with a colon in the title? The movie is connected to the original in name only. Sure, a Ouija board is the fulcrum here and, yes, spirits are channeled through it as they are in the first one. There’s even a convenient twist ending, but Flanagan might be doing himself a disservice here by slapping that connection to the miserable earlier film onto his.
This familiar material – especially with the idea of a mother and her two daughters being mere pawns for the supernatural – feels entirely too engaging and deliciously EVIL to be absentmindedly shackled to a spirit board with no end in sight. Not everything need be a trilogy. Thanks to the showmanship behind the scenes, we have a sense of purpose in some of the jumps. Hell, even the film's confident swagger is in check, too.
We just don’t need another franchise.
Origin of Evil is more than enough.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements
Runtime: 99 mins
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso
Tagline: No telling what you'll see.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Do you know what it feels like to be strangled to death?"
Theatrical Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://ouijamovie.com/
Release Date: October 21, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 17, 2017.
Synopsis: It was never just a game. Inviting audiences again into the lore of the spirit board, Ouija: Origin of Evil tells a terrifying new tale as the follow-up to 2014's sleeper hit that opened at number one. In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by the merciless spirit, this small family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.
Home Video Distributor: Universal Studios
Available on Blu-ray - January 17, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1; French: DTS 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A
Universal's 1080p transfer is presented in a in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that is faithful to the stylized cinematic release. Colors are steeped in late 60s flair and feature sharp details in clothing and in faces. From the old Universal logo to the techniques of the films from the period, the sequel is visually engaging from start to finish and – while not the greatest horror film – is sharper than you might be expecting. Black levels are strong, edges are clean, and shadows are deep. The English 5.1 DTS-HDMA audio track is loud and immersive and provides some good atmospheric thrills.
Provided by director Mike Flanagan, the commentary goes into the some of visual choices he made and the reasons behind them. He also discusses the filming of the movie, the casting, and the writing.
Beginning with seven deleted scenes, the blu-ray is surprisingly thorough in what it offers fans who pick up the release. You get a 9-minute look at the making of the movie, a 5-minute look at the location and why it is important, and a 4-minute inside look at the audition and the work of actress Lulu Wilson. A DVD, a Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet disc and code sheet is enclosed with the purchase.
- Deleted Scenes (17 min)
- The Making of Ouija: Origin of Evil (9 min)
- Home Is Where the Horror Is (5 min)
- The Girl Behind Doris (4 min)