Film Review: "Ouija: Origin of Evil" is certified cheap thrills and good fun
The biggest issue with “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is the title. Nobody looks at a movie called “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and takes it with any degree of seriousness, much less do you expect it to transcend past being something a teenager at a sleepover party would resort to for a quick thrill. Furthermore. the pessimist in me saw that a major funder of the film was Hasbro, who coincidently enough have a board game called “Ouija” for sale.
Set in 1967 Los Angeles, the film focuses on widowed single mother, Alice, her teenage daughter Paulina and her nine-year-old daughter Doris. The trio run a small business at home in which they promise communication with the dead, guided by some kind of warped moral compass that has convinced them that selling lies to bereaved people is the “right thing to do”. The film makes a very conscious effort to portray them as nice, well-meaning people by showing Alice refusing the money from a traumatised client, but really it just portrays her as a liar without any business sense. I digress. The catalyst to buying the Ouija board comes from Paulina sneaking out to a friends house, in which she stumbles across one. In a surprisingly funny scene, we are introduced to the Ouija rules: don’t play in a graveyard, don’t play alone, and always say goodbye. The kids are sprung from their secret rendezvous, and the parents (or in this case, parent) are called to pick up their wayward children. On the drive home, Paulina suggests they should invest in am Ouija board to further sell their far-fetched lies to sad people.
Sure enough, I’m sure you can guess who promptly goes out and buys an Ouija board (which surprisingly didn’t have “Hasbro” emblazoned on the packaging.) It was at this point, the film did something more surprising than any jump-scare it could muster. It slowed down, made some room for character development and told a patient, satisfying story. Before any of the real action began, we learned to intimately care about each character and learn their motivations. Conversely, the movie of which this is a prequel to tries to scare the shit out of us in the first 30 seconds. Slowly, but surely, demonic possession etches its way into their youngest daughter, Doris. Initially, Alice is transfixed by her daughter’s ability to speak to ghosts, even going as far as to take her out of school and use her to talk to her late husband. Ironically enough, we soon learn that Alice begins to believe the lie that she sells to her clients, at which point things start to turn south.
The film is gloriously shot, taking advantage of some very Citizen Kane-style camera focus to make sure we never get too comfortable and by keeping things just outside of frame until the very last second, so as to maximise the scare. With that being said, my favourite aspect of the film was the restraint that director Mike Flanagan exhibited in very carefully telling, not showing, some of the more gruesome aspects of the tale, for what we can imagine is far more scary than something we are shown. There are moments in the film that are profoundly stupid, especially some of the jump scares and voice manipulation towards the later half. Although, without them, the film would be a whole lot less fun.
I guess that’s the best term to describe “Ouija: Origin of Evil”. It’s just good fun. You can’t take it too seriously because the film doesn’t take itself too serious. All things considered, it’s a movie about a fucking board-game, but I'll be damned if it isn’t the best movie ever made about a board game.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Edit: Jumanji is the best movie ever made about a board game