Halloween would be incomplete without a few scary movies to indulge in. It seems that Mike Flanagan may be a decent option with his horror film “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” which hit theaters just in time for Halloween and is garnering some positive buzz. However, before there was “Origin of Evil,” there was the original “Ouija,” a film not so well received — and for good reason. With a messy plot and rare moments of actual fright, “Ouija” is a lackluster picture that I struggle to even label as a “horror” film. While I wouldn’t recommend watching this on Halloween — or anytime, really — There are a few things to note about the franchise before heading off to Point Cinema to see “Ouija: Origin of Evil.”
“Origin of Evil” is a prequel of the 2014 film directed by Stiles White. The plot centers around a girl who dies in her house after playing with a Ouija board. Her friends must piece together the circumstances surrounding her death, which involves playing with the board themselves and contending with the spirits that may have killed her friend. There are certain parts of the film that I appreciate, primarily its cinematography and lighting. The noticeable use of a longer camera lens makes for some visually pleasing close-ups of the settings and characters, and the way the filmmakers play with light while the friends play Ouija at night inside versus being outside during the day is a nice contrast.
I also think the plot point connecting “Ouija” with “Origin of Evil” is an interesting idea in itself, when the main character Laine figures out that what’s haunting the characters are actually the former residents of her friend’s house. This family, the Zanders, used to play with the board and communicate with spirits. “Origin of Evil” depicts what happened during that time and how the family became entangled with these dark forces of the game, which could work as a film if the story is executed well.
However, these elements are really the only compelling parts of the film. It’s pacing is sluggish;
it isn’t until a third of the way into the movie that the group of friends start playing with the board. And even then, there is maybe one “jump scare” that did nothing for me. The plot points throughout this film just don’t connect well. Even the plot point about the Zander family feels shoehorned in because nothing leading up to this moment prepares the story for that reveal.
On top of that, the acting feels forced. The only person who seems to be trying in this film is Olivia Cooke, who plays Laine. I liked the actress in the TV series “Bates Motel,” which was really the only draw for me coming into “Ouija.” The supporting cast are amateur at best and over-exaggerate most of their dialogue and actions, which made me care very little for the characters and what happens to them in the film.
Although “Ouija” is the first film in this franchise, it is not necessary to see this film before watching “Origin of Evil.” It may provide a little bit of context regarding the Zander family, but other than that, it does very little to set up the mythology of its narrative. When looking for something scary to watch on Halloween, I would advise picking another film or driving out to see “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” in theaters, which hopefully can redeem the missteps of “Ouija.”