"It's a f**king board game" shouted esteemed YouTube film critic Chris Stuckmann as he placed 'Ouija' on his worst of 2014 list, showing his anger towards the horror film. However, two years and an 'A' rating later, his opinion seems to have changed drastically on the concept. And to good reason, as 'Ouija: Origin of Evil' is a very effective horror movie.
2016 has been a great year for horror but when it comes to a build up, you won't get any better than 'Ouija: Origin of Evil'. There are a couple of reasons to do with this and the biggie is the time the film takes to establish its characters. The film doesn't rush to try and instantly scare you, instead, it focuses on the Zander family fairly closely. We get to see the flaws of the characters, learn what has happened to them before and what their personalities are like. You are made to care for this struggling family as we see the mother look to bond with her children after the loss of her husband. Once the film has established its characters, then the horror elements come into play and boy are they effective.
In all honesty, the film relies on the effectiveness of the character Doris played by Lulu Wilson. After her mother tries out the new Ouija board, the evil spirit attaches itself to the young child, using her as the apparatus for causing terror. If this role wasn't acted out well, this entire film would crumble. Wilson does a fantastic job as the incredibly creepy Doris, she is deeply unsettling and will send shivers down your spine by simply smiling. One of the best performances from a young actress this year, in a role that really helps the movie succeed. Elizabeth Reaser and Annalise Basso make up the rest of the Zander family, with both of them producing good performances alongside Wilson. Reaser does fantastically as the mother who looks to keep things together and you can see things take a toll on her as the film progresses.
The origin story to the Ouija board takes place in the late 60's and the film creates that retro feeling very well. Something that the director chose to do was have cue marks flicker throughout the movie to make it seem as if you were watching something old. This was a small thing but added to the feeling created, alongside the likes of the clothes the people wore and the cars that they were driving. This is kept consistent throughout the whole movie and does add an extra layer as the filmmakers have gone that extra mile to create a genuine feeling of the late 60's and early 70's.
Director Mike Flanagan shows yet again why he is one of horrors best talents in the industry. He crafts his scenes incredibly well, using slow build ups to create suspense with payoffs that aren't just cheap jump scares. One of Flanagan's best attributes in the film is undoubtedly his use of screen space. Flanagan sets up his shots to allow for other things to happen in the background, this allows the film to play with your mind even more so as you see things happening but not clearly. This adds to the mystery and also the suspense as you wait for the scares to come. His direction throughout most of the film is incredibly effective as everything seems to have been crafted very carefully for maximum effect. If Flanagan continues to impress, we won't have to wait too long for him to get a bigger budget film that will allow him to showcase his talents even more.
In saying that, there is a moment where you feel the film start to lose its way. As the film reaches its finale, it becomes a lot more crazy with them letting loose. Some of these moments do work, with others not doing so so much. Due to the film only having a budget of $6 million, the effects that are inserted into the finale look fairly bad which in hand made some of the moments look really bad and funnier rather than scary. This was a shame as the film did so well building the characters, the story and a good finale would have surely gained this film heaps of praise from fans and critics alike. It is really unfortunate that the film seemed to lose its stride as it fizzled out in the end.
Overall, 'Ouija: Origin of Evil' was a whole lot better than I expected it to be. The trailer didn't completely sell me but some great directing and very strong performances made this a fairly good horror movie. What stops this from being a great horror is its lackluster ending that isn't at the same quality as the rest of the film. Worth seeing if you are a horror fan as there are many aspects to like in this film.
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