While not innovative or up with the classics of the genre, Ouija: Origin Of Evil is gripping, creepy and at times quite chilling. An above-average horror movie.
A mate who’s a sci-fi nut observed recently that although he loves the genre and sees virtually every sci-fi movie that is released, he finds 95% of them to be crap. For me, it’s the same with horror flicks. I went to Ouija: Origin of Evil fearing the worst. First, there’s that title. And it’s a prequel, which rarely bodes well. And Ouija boards – didn’t they run outta scariness decades ago?
Just goes to show, ya never know. I’m delighted to report that my modest expectations were well exceeded. This is a pretty good horror flick. Why?
- It’s actually scary. It even has a couple of cold-shiver-up-the-spine moments. Most horror movies don’t manage any.
- The story works, and the ending is well-resolved (a rarity in horror flicks).
- It’s well acted by actors who take their roles seriously. There’s no hamming it up.
- The filmmakers have not hedged their bets. They have set out to make a horror movie or bust. There are no nudge-nudge-wink-wink genre send-ups. There is no splatter porn safety net to give the punters a laughter option if the horror fails.
- SFX/CGI are used to good effect and are not OTT. In fact, admirable restraint is shown in some instances. For example, in one scene a schoolkid’s will is taken over by demonic forces, leading him to shoot himself in the face with a rock-loaded ging. You hear the fleshy smack of the impact and his scream, but do not witness his injuries. Viewer imagination beats CGI gore every time, yet horror filmmakers so often fail to exploit this.
The story is set in the 1960s (there are only a few token nods to the period – the cars, the clothes, a 60s-style pop song on the radio that I didn’t recognise, its obscurity probably something to do with minimising royalty payments). A widow (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, teenager Paulina (Annalise Basso) and 10yo(ish) Doris (Lulu Wilson), eke out a living holding fake séances. When they introduce a Ouija board prop into their “business”, Doris messes around with it by herself hoping to summon the spirit of her father, opening the way to demonic possession. Strange things start happening, including the revelation that the house holds some dark secrets. A priest (Henry Thomas) from Doris’ school intervenes, and the stage is set for a showdown between the forces of good and evil.
OK, the set-up is not terribly original, but the narrative is well-managed, tension is sustained, and there’s enough variation from the familiar to keep you guessing as to how the story will end and at what cost to which characters.
En route to a contextually credible conclusion, young Doris dials up the creepy factor as the demons transform her from innocent youngster to possessed maniac-child capable of supernatural feats such as scrabbling along the walls like a cockroach. There are the usual possession clichés: rolled back eyes, telepathic powers, distorted physical features, the hijacking of the child’s vocal cords by death-metalesque voices, etc. These might have evoked derision were the dramatic fundamentals not solidly in place as they are here. A well performed and well managed story goes a long way to compensating for just about all manner of other ills.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is not innovative or up with the classics of the genre, but it’s gripping, creepy and at times hair-raising (those who know me, don’t be cruel). All in all, well above average as horror movies go.
Movie website: http://www.ouijamovie.com.au/
Ouija: Origin Of Evil features: Lin Shaye, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Australian release date: 20 Oct 2016 (@ Event, Grand Cinemas and Reading Cinemas Belmont in Perth)
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