Well, it’s that time of year folks. It’s October, which means movie studios are attempting to cash in on the spooky atmosphere with cheap and derivative horror movies made for teenagers. This latest cash-in manifests in the form of Ouija: Origin of Evil, a prequel to another sub-par horror movie that no one watched.
Ouija: Origin of Evil follows the Zander family in 1967’s Los Angeles. After the family loses its patriarch, Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) begins working as a fortune teller to make ends meet, inviting people into her home and allowing them to communicate with their deceased loved ones, for a price of course. This is all well and good, except for the fact that Alice can’t actually talk to ghosts. She is forced to fake it to her customers, with the help of her two young daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). That is until one day she brings home a Ouija board in an attempt to spice up her act. Inevitably various creepy occurrences become more frequent around the house, and blah blah blah, you know where this is going.
Ouija: Origin of Evil fails to surprise in any significant way, following typical horror conventions and tropes to the letter. Whenever the film becomes moderately quiet, you know the film is about to ram a jump scare down your throat. Oh, Doris starts playing with the Ouija board? Surprise surprise, she becomes possessed. This film prides itself on following the standard scary movie formula, rejecting any sort of creativity or ingenuity.
That’s a pretty big knock against the film, but I’d maybe be more forgiving if this scary movie was actually scary. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. There is not a single tense moment to be found in this film. In fact, it’s downright laughable at times. There are multiple moments in the film where director Mike Flanagan attempts to frighten with moments of body-horror. Well, if you can even call what’s in this film “body-horror.” This mainly refers to when Alice’s youngest daughter unhinges her jaw to a ridiculous degree, made possible with laughably atrocious CGI. Every time it happens (and it happens a lot) all dramatic tension is lost just due to how terrible it looked. Flanagan attempts to play these moments as scares, but these scenes wouldn’t feel out of place from one of the Scary Movie parodies.
The film’s script and acting are on par with the rest of the film, which means they are absolutely dreadful. Flanagan made an extremely interesting choice where he elected to direct every actor in this film to emote as if they were all reading the specials off of a late night Denny’s menu. Every single actor in this film, with the exception of Basso, comes off as so stiff and robotic, that it makes it impossible to connect with a single character. This is compounded with the awful, clunky dialogue that is prevalent throughout the film. Characters will awkwardly explain and re-explain their motivations, coming off more as exposition bots rather than actual characters.
As for the story itself, well, I think you can sense a trend here. The film’s story is equally as bad, juggling multiple subplots that never really amount to anything. Lina has a romantic subplot with a boy at school and Alice has a problem with it, but this never goes anywhere. Alice also has her own romantic subplot with a priest at her children’s school, but once again, it goes nowhere. There’s also Nazi ghosts involved at some point? Nothing in this film gets the screen time it deserves, which leads to the film feeling like well, a whole lot of nothing. Scares happen, ghost shenanigans occur, and then the film reaches its natural end point.
Just kidding, the film plows through what should be its ending and decides to keep on trucking for about ten more minutes. These scenes are so pointless and disconnected from everything that occurred previously. This seems only fitting this terrible movie ends in an equally terrible way, giving you false hope that this travesty of a horror film is over, only to make you endure another handful of scenes.
With mind tricks like that, maybe the director should try his hand at psychological horror instead? Anything would be better than another damn Ouija film.