Ghoulish Game

Dark portal to spirit world opens Ouija: Origin of Evil

Watch out! Elizabeth Reaser and Lulu Wilson star in 'Ouija: The Origin of Evil.'

Watch out! Elizabeth Reaser and Lulu Wilson star in ‘Ouija: The Origin of Evil.’

Ouija: Origin of Evil
Starring Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson & Henry Thomas
Directed by Mike Flanagan
In theatres Oct. 21, 2016

When I was a kid, my older teenage cousin had a Ouija board. She mostly used it, at least it seemed to me—moving the plastic, teardrop-shaped “planchette,” the thing with three little legs and a see-through hole—over the letters to answer questions about her boyfriend, Slick.

There was nothing very otherworldly about it, and nothing very ominous; when Ouija didn’t give her the answers, she turned to another oracle, the Magic 8 Ball. I think there may have been some Tarot cards and incense in there somewhere, too. Anyway, she and Slick didn’t last very long.

In this movie, set in 1967, we first see the Ouija board game nested, innocently enough, within a stack of other popular games of the era, including Candyland, Sorry! and Monopoly. But in a movie subtitled “Origin of Evil,” how long do you think it takes before that ol’ black magic begins to stir?

Ouija: Origin of Evil is actually a prequel to Ouija, the 2014 movie about a group of teens who noodle around with a Ouija board and unlock the portal to a dark, dangerous spirit world. In the new Ouija, a widowed mom working as a fake spiritualist (Elizabeth Reaser) adds a new stunt—the Ouija board—to pep up her fake séance business. In doing so, she makes the same mistake, rolling out the welcome mat for a host of malevolent spirits to take over her home.

Film Title: Ouija: Origin of EvilAnd they’re particularly interested in her youngest daughter, Doris (Lulu Wilson), who begins speaking in strange voices, seeing things invisible to everyone else and writing in a foreign language. And all that’s before things start getting really weird, creepy and calamitous.

Mom thinks Doris is good for business, but her oldest daughter (Annalise Basso) is freaked. The headmaster priest at the girls’ Catholic school (Henry Thomas, all grown up from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) is concerned. When he pulls up in front of the house to check things out, the background music mimics the iconic theme from The Exorcist.

Co-writer and director Mike Flanagan does a very nice job with the late ’60s vibe—the movie genuinely feels like something happening in the era of moon missions, late-night TV test patterns, macramé sweaters and big American-made cars. It also feels like something of the era, from the golden retro glow of its colors to the clever reel-change cues “burnt” into the corners of scenes, an homage to a time when its kind of fright-night scares were something you’d see at drive-ins and double-features—a pre-digital era when projectionists would need visual cues to stay on their toes.

Film Title: Ouija: Origin of EvilRed-eyed, hissing demons—check. Adorable tyke who undergoes terrifying body transformations and crawls on the walls and walks on the ceiling—yep. Slingshots and stitching needles, comin’ right at your nightmares—got ’em. If you’re looking for some straight-up, mainline Halloween haunted-house “gotchas,” this date-night ride has a slow start, but builds to a wild, crazy, screaming finish.

The performers are all good, especially the youngsters. Watch out for Lulu Wilson, who played Mikayla on TV’s The Millers; she reminds me of a young Reese Witherspoon. And Annalise Basso—terrific earlier this year as one of the kids in Captain Fantastic—shoulders more and more of the movie as it goes on, shifting her teen-sister role into a stronger, more significant lead as the plot progresses.

Can playing with a Ouija board open up the door to hell? It certainly does in the movies—and my cousin’s ex-boyfriend Slick might have thought so. And maybe that that’s why I’ve always been more of a Monopoly, Operation and Mousetrap guy myself.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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