OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL
This time around, the director, writers and cast from the first film have all been replaced (apart from an uncredited post-credits cameo from Lin Shaye who we discover is the present-day version of Annalise Basso). On board is Mike Flanagan who automatically makes Ouija: Origin of Evil a far better film than its predecessor before you have even started watching. Mike Flanagan is a director who has proved himself of considerable worth in the last few years. Flanagan first appeared with the amazing Absentia (2011) and from there went onto the evil mirror film Oculus (2013) for Blumhouse. Origin of Evil was the third of three films that Flanagan released in 2016 alone, including also Hush (2016), an incredibly taut psycho-thriller about a deaf woman being stalked and taunted by a killer, and Before I Wake (2016) about a child whose dreams become manifest. Ouija: Origin of Evil becomes Flanagans third word for Blumhouse following Oculus and Hush. He subsequently went on to make the Stephen King adaptation Geralds Game (2017).
I liked Ouija: Origin of Evil better than Ouija (and it certainly received far better reviews than its predecessor), although I would also have to say that it is a weaker effort among Mike Flanagans films. It sits well below Absentia and Hush, beneath Oculus and slightly above Before I Wake. Flanagan takes his time in the lead-in. The opening seance is effective, especially the revelation that all of the spooky atmosphere has been faked (even if this is a plot element that never proves of too much significance beyond that you expect a horror film that sets something this up to play out in a Is it real or is it faked? dialectic thereafter). The first real jump comes about the 40-minute mark where Lulu Wilson looks through the planchette lens in the mirror to discover a black demon figure behind her who then bends her over at an unnatural angle. In the very next scene, we see her with blank white eyes whispering inaudibly into the ear of the sleeping Annalise Basso.
I liked this but while Mike Flanagan has opted for genuine suspense and eerie jumps in his other films, here he seems too reliant on jump shocks. The constant serving up of scenes with Lulu Wilson and others with blank white eyes and mouth open in a giant oval, people scuttling along upside down on the ceiling, hanged bodies swinging down into the midst of a room feel like the mechanical go-for-the-audience-in-the-ribs jumps that you would get from a far less subtle genre director than Flanagan. Lulu Wilson gives a promising performance, which holds some eeriness when she starts delivering readings and especially the scene where she tells Parker Mack in detail what it feels like to be strangled, but far too often this is co-opted by effects.
Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017) and Stephanie (2017).