Laura Cafasso ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This is not for the faint of heart. Ouija: Origin of Evil’s main outcome includes sleeplessness and paranoia. The only antidote would be to binge watch a mindless, entertaining show on Netflix to drown out all the horror. Let’s just say the final outcome is to never ever play a Ouija board. Seriously.
Set back in 1967, Origin of Evil predates 2014’s Ouija. If you forgot that this is a prequel, the film gives you several hints: same creepy but beautiful house, same gruesome method of killing innocent bystanders, and same denial of all participants (“come on guys, cut it out, who’s moving that?”). But what this version does compared to its futuristic predecessor is truly destroy a grieving, struggling family. Also victimized: a good night’s sleep and any chance of going down to a basement for anything.
Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) runs a dismal “fortune teller” business out of her house where she conspires with her daughters to “help” clients that want to connect with deceased loved ones. Her motive is kind, but the means to get there all cry out scam. While her older, cliched-rebellious daughter Lena (Annalise Basso) is well aware of the duplicity, the younger, misfit daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson) finds comfort in the fact that it may bring them close to their dead father. Lena has no faith, and in typical 1960s prodocal she sneaks out of the house late at night and dismisses her mother’s business as fraudulent and stupid.
However, it all goes to Hell (literally) when Alice decides to purchase the new board game craze: Ouija. Unsuspecting and impressionable Doris connects with someone on the other side, but definitely not Casper the Friendly Ghost. Alice has no sense of that board’s hold on Doris or the malevolent nature it’s unleashed, so she starts employing it more and more much to the bewilderment of new clients and Lena. A part of her clings to the notion her dead husband is communicating with them, but not all is what it seems.
Every horror film has to have a heroic insertion of religion. This manifests as the meek but earnest Father Thomas (Henry Thomas). He too has lost a loved one (his wife) and understands Alice’s determination to keep her family afloat. But, as a priest, he knows the dangers of communicating with “the other side.” He soon gets dragged into this heinous mess, with only the power of Christ to compel Doris’ possessor.
Without giving too much away, Origin of Evil delivers. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Before I Wake, Oculus), it has the dismaying combination of shock, hopelessness, and spooks. It can be categorized as a noble effort right alongside The Conjuring films. However, compared to The Conjuring franchise, Origin of Evil lacks a clear resolution which may disturb and alienate some viewers. The star is definitely Lulu Wilson whose performance echoes her youthful horror film counterparts from The Sixth Sense and Poltergeist. All she wanted was a friend, but as you can deduce, she got more than she bargained for.
If you’re looking for the perfect pregame to Halloween scares, fair warning. And for God’s sake, don’t invest in or dust off a Ouija board. A nice rousing game of Monopoly never hurt anyone.
Overall Grade: B
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