Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ouija: Origin of Evil

   When I first heard they were doing an Ouija horror movie, I knew it'd be dumb. It was- or so I heard. It was mercilessly panned by critics and audiences alike, a true sign of a bad movie. But, then, something odd happened. Universal Studios green lit a prequel, that would be directed by Mike Flanagan... the director of Oculus and Hush. Like, damn. Then, the movie came out and started getting some great reviews. Is the movie as good as they say it is? Offhand, I'd say hell yeah. Flanagan knows what he's doing, and even with sloppy seconds he turns it into something chilling.

   Ouija boards never scared me, and this movie doesn't aim to make them scary, but rather... the 'it' you might be communicating with is what's actually terrifying. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a refreshingly straightforward horror movie that builds atmosphere and sets up some completely effective jump scares. It fits nicely into the little modern day horror niche carved out by by films like Insidious and The Conjuring. It features a struggling family beset by supernatural terror. The strength of this flick lies in it's detailed and careful approach to the story.

   It's not groundbreaking or overwhelmingly original, but it does what it does with aplomb and a genuine sense of showmanship. The movie opens with a neat little scene, showing all the literal bells and whistles behind a 'seance', and in a lot of ways its a scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Nobody has their hands on the planchette here, the movie is showing you that it's not going for all the easy little string-pulls and door slams. All the scares and tension in this movie are earned and well crafted. It's a back-to-basics that really works, and simultaneously infuses some fresh ideas into the genre.

   I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't dive into details, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the pitch perfect 60's aesthetic of the movie. The story is set in 1965 Los Angeles, and we know that by context. The way people are dressed, the way they talk. The movie doesn't beat the audience over the head with needle drops or flashy montages. This could've easily been a movie made in the 60's. Excellent. It made me smile every time I saw the reel change marks. Speaking of excellence, young Lulu Wilson carries most of the movie squarely on her 11 year old shoulders, and she's absolutely perfect in the role.

   She plays Doris Zander, the youngest of two daughters to professional medium, Alice Zander, played with gusto by Elizabeth Reaser. Alice ends up incorporating a Ouija board into her seance act, only to find out that Doris can actually contact spirits. Of course, nothing ever stays so innocent, and things quickly get dark. The movie can make subtle background details or conversations as scary and as haunting as any of it's flashy jump scares. The movie also features some fantastic horror visuals. Again, I don't wanna dive into specifics, because I'm recommending you just go check it out.

   It's not a super fast movie, or a super gory movie, but it's a very engaging and haunting movie. It tackles familiar genre tropes from new angles, and serves up a stunning buffet of well crafted scares. Again, it's not the most original or groundbreaking movie, but it's a solid entry into a genre that's far too often 'miss' than 'hit'. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a hit.