Rated: PG-13 for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: October 21, 2016 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
The maker of Oculus has brought thoughtful, revealing drama to this prequel of a Hasbro board game (advertised towards quivering teens) turned flaccid flick a couple of years ago.
Mike Flanagan's Ouija: Origin of Evil uses horror tropes to its advantage, even when handling clichés to induce veritable apprehension as the movable indicator figuratively points surprisingly favorably. In using a 1967 setting well enough to elicit an autumnal glow complements of Michael Fimognari's lushly hued cinematography which recalls those old Douglas Sirk films from yesteryear.
The supernatural tale with demonic possession revolves around a family unit dealing the loss of a husband and father; the medium of a séance, Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) is aided by her school age daughters Lina (Annalise Basso of Captain Fantastic) and youngest Doris (Lulu Wilson) who has "the gift" her grandma had. Their "living" to avoid a possible foreclosure is hardly legit as the eponymous board is procured as a prop to add to the act.
Flanagan works in deliberate fashion as a specific type of intervention is needed in what many may describe as a cross between Poltergeist and The Exorcist. Convocation of the ghoulish by accident as an image is picked up in said indicator, but later the emphasis drifts from the board as edgy, even cheesy eeriness is well-earned. Even if the resulting mayhem and revelations have a slanted churning excess about it.
But, in what is handled which can have dire consequences has its personal values as Alice reads the palm of Lina's beau (Parker Mack), and mother and daughters have to fend off a unwavering wraith. The filmmaking and narrative are in sync to offer empathy for what has grim repercussions, and Reaser, Basso, and Wilson are up to the challenge even if the flow ebbs a bit in the latter half.
Origin of Evil also has a mannerly, complementary role for Henry Thomas (Dear John, E.T., though finding a niche as a small-screen character actor) as a sagely, considerate clergyman grappling with his own mishap. In a year that has often flourished for an often weakly rendered (sated for lurid or CGI purposes) genre (10 Cloverfield Lane, Lights Out, Don't Breathe, e.g.) this Ouija doesn't rely on too many jump-scares proving that character and poise can be confidently staged to move towards "Yes".
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