Spooky surprise in Ouija: Origin of Evil

Lulu Wilson as Doris in Ouija: Origin of Evil.
Lulu Wilson as Doris in Ouija: Origin of Evil.

NEVER judge a book by its cover, or a movie by the board game it is based on in the case of Ouija: Origin of Evil.

In one of the nicest surprises of 2016, a prequel to a film with a title as hokey as Origin of Evil, leaves recent spooky hits like Insidious and The Conjuring in its ghostly mist.

In 1967, after the death of her husband, single mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) struggles to make ends meet.

To pay the bills, she provides grieving people psychic readings in her oversized home, with help from her daughters Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) who help sell the illusion of a spiritual presence each time with little tricks.

“Scam” being a dirty word in that household, Alice justifies it to her daughters that they are helping people find peace.

Things take a turn when Alice introduces a Ouija board to readings and Doris begins talking to ghosts, and they are not interested in being friends.

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Aussie James Wan may have cornered the haunted house market in recent years, with his Insidious and The Conjuring franchises being runaway hits, but writer/director Mike Flanagan is scaring up some stiff competition.

Coming on the tail end of those movies, fingers crossed audiences do not dismiss Origin of Evil as a rip-off riding on the waves of their success, because this is better than its recent precursors.

With a confident focus on character and relationships over things that go bump in the night, (Wan tends to over-use creaky doors as a means to rattle his audience), Flanagan makes us care about his characters by grounding them in reality before he puts them through the ringer.

He shows restraint on scares, hinting at things in the background, and building to the jump instead of overwhelming us with them every 10 minutes.

There are subtle nods to Poltergeist and The Exorcist but Origin of Evil averts expectation at each step, which just adds to the feeling of unease.

Wan might want to watch his back with Flanagan.


Ouija: Origin of Evil (M)

Directed by: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

In cinemas now