Ouija: Origin Of Evil is the prequel to the critically lambasted but fiscally lucrative 2014 horror flick, Ouija, itself based on the Hasbro board game that is said to allow the living to communicate with the spirits of the dead.
The film is set nearly fifty years ago, in 1967, which is fitting because that was probably the last time any vaguely sentient human being could possibly find an Ouija Board scary. The story actually gets off to a decent start with Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) conducting a séance for a grieving widower and his greedy daughter. Cleverly, once the séance concludes, we find out that the whole thing is a sham, with Alice’s daughters, teenage Paulina (Annalise Basso) and child, Doris (Lulu Wilson), assisting in the charade. Sadly, this is the last time that the film is even vaguely surprising.
What follows is a slow, protracted slog through the horror genre’s most overused tropes and predictable cliches, including loud noises, strange whispers and, of course, creepy possessed children. It all vaguely ties to the titular Ouija Board, but the central mystery of why it’s all happening feels like it started life in a different, more original horror movie.
That’s not to say that Ouija: Origin Of Evil is without its moments. Director, Mike Flanagan, excels at achieving a lot with a little, as seen in both Absentia and Oculus, and there are moments here, particularly in the third act, when you catch brief glimpses of inspiration. Scenes where Doris communicates with what she thinks is her dead father and tries to see into the spirit world are undeniably evocative and executed with style. The rest of the time, however, the movie is an exercise in pedestrian storytelling with minimal tension, and feels a bit like The Conjuring lite. Younger audiences or people who haven’t seen a horror movie in the last fifty years may get some thrills from these ghostly shenanigans, but the rest of us will find these evil origins mostly forgettable.