Movie Reviews: "Ouija: Origin of Evil" Is Remarkably Restrained

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Need something terrifying to watch on this sacred haunted day? Don't let this one pass you by!

2014's Ouija film left such little of an impression I could hardly recall if I'd seen it or not. Turns out, I had. And the only thing that came to mind was: Ouija BORED. That's why it's such a surprise this year's sequel Ouija: Origin of Evil is so damn good. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a flawless masterpiece, and it isn't anything new for the horror genre. But as Halloween is now upon us, consider this a worthwhile entry into your spook-day playlist. 

Right away we meet Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), a psychic medium for hire who scams her customers by pulling crafty theatrics (or as she calls it, "showmanship") with some behind-the-scenes help from her two precocious daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). One day, Alice buys a Ouija board from the store and—you guessed it—she taps into the other side. For real this time.

The cool thing about this film is its old-school, retro approach with the throwback title sequence and '60s cloaked sets (also, if you look closely, you can catch a few "cue marks" in the upper right corner of the frame). The bizarre occurrences incrementally build with tried-and-true horror methods—including alternations between eerie music and deafening silence, slow zoom-ins and zoom-outs backed by creeping piano keys, shadows lurking in corners, and beady-eyed and possessed kids spouting off uncomfortable monologues about strangulation. There’s also some tense views through the Ouija's looking glass where the conniving demons dwell.

In fact, the first half of this film is remarkably restrained and calculated for a mainstream horror flick. Of course, I'm not saying antes aren't upped or some crazy-ass stuff doesn't eventually happen. But the story mostly refrains from overly campy shark-jumps, groan-worthy special effects, and rotten dialogue. It all escalates into a dreadful and thrilling climax that concludes with an audaciously bleak ending. The magnetic performances from the cast really aid the mood too.

Guided by director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush), Ouija: Origin of Evil is an unnerving push-and-pull between skeptics and believers. And if you're wondering if you need to see the film's predecessor beforehand, the answer is NO. You're best bet is to slide straight toward this one. But remember the game's three rules:

1. Never play alone.

2. Never play in a graveyard.

3. Always say goodbye.