Title: Ouija: Origin of Evil
HTS Overall Score:
Horror films are one of the most rule ridden and formulaic genres in all of film making. I don’t even think action films are as typically predictable as your average horror flick. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the horror genre, but I’ve been jaded with the number of stereotypes and clichés that have turned my favorite type of movie into something that is no longer scary or even that enjoyable for the most part. 2015’s “Ouija” was a victim of this mentality, being one of the most boring and painful theatrical horror movies that I had ever seen. I can watch bad horror and gleefully love every second of it, but “Ouija” just lacked imagination, wit or anything even resembling fun in its 89-minute runtime. With such a BRUTAL critical and consumer backlash I was seriously surprised that “Ouija” actually got a sequel (or a prequel reall). “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is in no way an inventive film that will re define the genre (it’s downright formulaic at times), but it has some competent directing and a few twists and turns along the way that are actually rather good. Easily making it a far superior film than its predecessor.
Not to spoil too much about “Ouija” if you haven’t seen it, but “Origin of Evil” takes place 40+ years ago in 1967. Long before the young girls unleash a demonic spirit with a Ouija board in 2015, we go back to the origins of said spirit. Same house, same Ouija board, just different people and an explanation of HOW the terrible spirits in the 1st movie go to be where they were. Widow Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) is trying the best she can to make a life for herself and her two daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) through a bit of conniving. She has set up a séance reading business, and uses both of her daughters to con unsuspecting men and women into paying for her to “speak” to the dead. Like all psychics, she holds no delusion that she can ACTUALLY speak to the dead, but she does a good job at making her clients believe she can. However, after Lina and her friends use a Ouija Board one night as a harmless game, things take a drastic turn for the fake psychic.
Little Doris soon starts communing with what seems like her dead father, drawing the tortured widow into the conversation as well. Day by day, step by step, Doris continues speaking with the spirit realm, and slowly gains more in common with them than she does with the rest of humanity. Lina is the only one who can actually see the dark path that her sister is heading down and with the help of Father Hogan (Henry Thomas), their local priest, Lina does whatever she can to try and save her family from the cold clutches of a spirit realm that holds no mercy for the living.
As I said before, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is not the most creative film in the world, but it is decidedly satisfactory for a change. The film tries to woo viewers with the classic “Universal” symbol at the beginning and tries to grade the film and toss in a few old fashioned “film” flaws like cigarette burns on the image and a few warped shots and faux “speckles” that occasionally pop up to give it that old fashioned vibe. The cigarette burns tend to not be as effective as they had hoped since the burn seems to always show up on the same spot instead of moving around on the screen, but “Origin of Evil” manages to make itself rather creepy at times. Most of the scares are in the jump scare category, but director Mike Flanagan also imbues a sense of disturbance in the atmosphere. An atmosphere that is almost as thick and fox and brings its own set of thrills as well.
Things go about as one would expect for the spiritual horror sub-genre, with jump scares, malevolent spirits that seem to want to wreak vengeance on humans, and your classic Catholic priest to help out the girls in their struggle. Still, there’s a few moments where I had to tip my hat to those involved as the performances are solidly convincing and there are some jump out moments that are truly creepy (think Doris dragging her mother over the floor with that insane clown grin on her face). After the truly terrible movie that “Ouija” was a couple years back I was more than a bit shocked to say that the sequel is more than just watchable. It’s actually rather good comparatively.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements
While “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is most definitely a digital production, it DOES try to mimic the look and feel of film as best it could. The faux speckles, cigarette burns and the original Universal logo is evidence enough of that. However, as much as it WANTED to be film stock, the digital nature of the movie is fairly obvious. A bit murky and dim, the 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks very nice for a modern release, but is plagued by a bit of low level noise in the dimmer sequences. Things can clear up in the daylight, but once indoors and with the windows closed you can see mosquito noise slowly encroaching on the image. Fine detail is consistent and clear throughout, with some intentional softness to the picture that seems to be a result of the almost glowing golden color grading throughout. Skin tones are a bit ruddy and faces flushed, but contrast levels are well balanced, giving the movie a nicely natural look. Blacks are solid enough, but the afore mentioned digital noise tends to be most apparent during the darker sequences.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” houses a nice 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on board the Blu-ray that fits well into the confines of the horror genre. Dialog is always cleanly replicated and the surround channels are interspersed with finely nuanced ambient noises that act as the backstop for the film’s mood. You can hear the tick tock of the grandfather clock throughout the film (in fact it acts as one of the most consistent and well defined background noises of the entire film) and other creaks and groans typical of the creepy genre. The bass is fairly restrained for much of the movie, but then those little moments where you jump out of your skin are punctuate with a ferocious attack of LFE that pounds you back into the seat. The movie is actually fairly talky for a horror flick, but the more boisterous and shocking moments of the film bring a sense of excitement along with a delightfully creepy score. There’s not a whole lot of fine tuning to the track, but everything that is asked of it is handled with apt ease.
• The Making of Ouija: Origin of Evil
• Home Is Where the Horror Is
• The Girl Behind Doris
• Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer/Editor Mike Flanagan
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” is not going to considered a classic amongst horror films, but it is a fun little rental level movie that is quite competently made. Thankfully they ditched the original director and went with Mike Flanagan of “Oculus” fame, which allows for some much better directed material than what we were submitted to in the last entry. While it’s a direct tie in to “Ouija”, you really don’t have to know the events of that film to enjoy this one. There’s enough winks and nods for those who have seen the original, but it it’s never necessary and always self contained with everything that happens here. Audio and video are well done and the extras are actually a step up in quality and quantity as well. Something which makes me seriously shocked that a SEQUEL (or prequel. 2nd Movie in a series at least) for a much maligned piece of cinematic garbage actually turned out good. Will it knock your socks off? No, but I have no qualms in recommending “Origin of Evil” to you guys as a good solid rental at the very least.
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Written By: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 17th 2017
Buy Ouija: Origin of Evil On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Watch
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