Ouija: Origin of Evil Blu-ray Review
Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS) works as a psychic, charging money to naïve people looking to make peace with recent losses. She has quite a production, putting on a show involving creaking doors, extinguished candles and shadowy figures behind curtains. It’s a scam, although Alice likes to defend with the word “closure.”
After sneaking out to attend a party (complete with “Why can’t we just go to the moon?” to further establish the 1967 setting), Alice’s oldest daughter, Paulina (Annalise Basso, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC), takes to a Ouija board, which has never once been a good thing in movies. The frights that come along with a round of Hasbro-branded witchcraft give Paulina the idea to incorporate the game into the rigged séances. Soon enough, youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson, the short-lived CBS sitcom THE MILLERS), takes to the game, hoping she can communicate with her deceased father. Cue the nighttime bumps, paranormal activities and scheduled exorcisms (courtesy of Father Tom, played by Henry Thomas).
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is the prequel to 2014’s OUIJA, a movie that tried to get by on cheap boo! moments and lousy special effects. It didn’t warrant another installment, let alone any form of origin story. Yet, it’s almost as if this prequel is meant to help retract the disaster of its predecessor, because OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL has some genuine spooks and disturbing images.
Of course, it hosts so many of the tropes that such a movie often does, such as an innocent child proclaiming she has “a new friend” and obligatory involvement of mediums and priests. And seeing the planchette bounce along the board by itself and “answering” YES to characters’ questions will never be scary because that’s not what actually happens. (Really, hasn’t Monopoly been more destructive to households than Ouija?)
Still, the movie is often strong. Some of this has to do with it having guts, particularly when it comes to the main characters’ fates. There is also a strong performance by the young Lulu Wilson, who never once plays her character as if under the strict orders of a director (as often seems to be the case in kid-centric horror flicks). She is believable, even when the story isn’t, and helps mold a memorable and realistic “scary kid” character. (Hearing her detail what it’s like to be strangled to death is chill-inducing.)
There isn’t anything terribly original in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, but director Mike Flanagan (BEFORE I WAKE and HUSH, both also released this year; other efforts are 2013’s OCULUS and 2011’s ABSENTIA), who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Howard, gives a straight-faced attempt at having his prequel stand on its own. He occasionally relies on a number of the tactics that made its predecessor so bad and stale, but keeps focus and tells an overall interesting story. OUIJA: ORIGINAL OF EVIL won’t warrant another installment, either, but at least it’s a fine way to develop the series.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. With fine textures and accurate colors (however limited the palette is), this is an overall nice presentation that offers a clear video and enhances the mid-‘60s setting.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Dialogue is clean and score (by the Newton Brothers) comes through with full effect.
Feature commentary with director/co-writer/editor Mike Flanagan: Flanagan offers an overall solid track in which he discusses the production, covering the cast, locations, tone and much more.
The Making of OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (9:14): Cast and crew discuss the power of horror movies, as well as the plot, characters and more of the movie.
Home is Where the Horror Is (4:45) looks at the central location of OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL
The Girl Behind Doris (4:01) puts the character and Lulu Wilson under the spotlight.
Deleted Scenes (17:05): There are seven here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Contacting Edward,” “Worried About Moving,” “The Real Thing,” “Doris Tells a Secret,” “Never Too Late,” “The Doctor Is In” and “Good Sister.”