Ouija: Origin of Evil review: by Rob Stoakes
UK Certification: 15
Halloween is over, everyone, and has been for over a week as of time of writing. But now seems to be when the horror movies start to crawl out of the ground. Because of course. And since we live in a world where even xXx is getting a sequel or reboot (seriously, xXx? Really?!) almost all of them are continuations of stories that did not need continuing.
Blair Witch exists thanks to this environment, and there’s that weird sequel to The Ring that’s on the horizon, but while those two were self-contained stories that didn’t need bolting onto, Ouija didn’t need continuing because it sucked like a Dyson Black Hole. Yet another uninspired, paint-by-numbers ghost story with all of the blood and monsters and psychological trauma (you know, things that HORRIFY people) replaced with jump scares.
So it’s odd to say that Ouija Origin of Evil is definitely in the better half of horror films I’ve seen this year and is far, far better than it had any right to be. It certainly feels strange to say that I’d argue that it’s a spookier watch than The Witch at times, and as a snooty indie-loving snob that physically hurts to say.
This film is very grim and very sad throughout. A lot of the scares throughout the first half of the film comes from stuff that is barely focused on, happening in the shadows at the corner of your eye. A character moving about far behind the focus, glimpses of something nasty, making you question what you just saw, the first half of this film is very tense.
It’s not hard to acknowledge that being haunted by the spirits of the dead is one of the better things to happen to our three protagonists. The little girl who discovers she’s a medium, the con artist mum who can’t hold her family together anymore, the teenager who’s lost her father and can’t deal with it without dividing herself from her family, all of them seem to have their lives significantly improve when the ghosts show up, and all three have reactions that, while to varying degrees of stupid, are at least understandable with their characters and what we know about them.
Better yet, most of this is carried through the mostly great performances. The MVP Award in this film goes to Annalise Basso, who was in the director’s previous work Oculus, and manages to add a lot of subtle nuance to a character who is otherwise just “the only one freaked out by what’s happening.” Elizabeth Reaser also brings a lot of tragedy to her character that, in a lesser actor’s hands, would’ve just felt forced. Overall, this is a really good horror film.
And then… the scares happen.
Now, as a disclaimer, this could’ve been my mood rather than the film itself, but a tense, nervous film has never so quickly turned into a goofy unintentional riot. I’ve said on the Battleship Potemkast, the greatest podcast on the Earth, that the best horrors have an element of the silly, but this film is drowning in it. The centrepiece “scare” of the film is where a grinning little girl head-butts a vicar, it’s off to the races from there. There are comedies this year more sombre and scary than this.
There’s a couple of other issues spotted in the pot, such as the paint-by-numbers plot and the villain ultimately being, sing with me now, the ghost murdered by a doctor, and the monster is a screaming person with whited out eyes and ratty hair. Because of course it is. They always are nowadays. Apparently the scariest thing in the world is novelty contact lenses.
I do have to stress, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a far better movie than it perhaps had any right to be, and is one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. It’s a good horror film, one of the best in 2016, and perfect for popcorn munching with a significant other and laughing along, like a rom-com or Noam Chomsky lectures. However, if you’re looking for a film that is actually scary then you won’t have much use for this.
Budget: $9 million/Music: The Newton Brothers/Length: 99 minutes
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
But if you want someone else’s opinion, then settle for Captain Cook’s on the Battleship Potemkast, now on iTunes.