Ouija Origin of Evil decides its best way to scare you is to let you know who you will care for. The horror seeps through the connection to the family, that their personal lives carry emotional weight to the viewer making a judgement on whether they will care or if they will be passive.
The prequel film set in 1965 Los Angeles tells the story of a widowed mother of two daughters Alice Zander (Elisabeth Reaser). Her job, or game is to perform a ‘Seance’ for bereaved people wanting to reach out to loved ones, her end game is their money and has her kids in on the scam. Teenager Lina Zander (Annalise Basso) and younger daughter Doris Zander (Lulu Wilson).
Like any other teenager Lina sneaks out of her room, she ends up at possible love interest Mikey (Parker Mack’s) house, they decide to play a board game, that board game: Ouija. The group of four play it in Mikey’s mom’s garage, one friend convinced that it’s real has to be convinced otherwise. A clear moment of silence is followed by mike’s moms entrance, scaring a friend out of her mind, a reaction worthy of a clap, a reaction I’d expect and have myself.
Alice after learning about Ouija, is tempted by the pull to scare her clientele with the game and decides to buy one for work use. As you can tell the rules of the game indicate clearly what not to do, and for the time spent using it, they do the opposite, not treating it like it explicitly explains too. What follows is Doris unknowing discovery of a demonic presence that lives inside the house, attaching itself to the girl and using her as proxy.
The film lingers on character development for what feels like most of the film, don’t get me wrong I love learning about each character but for the horror aspect it misses out on the sustained and prolonged horror, for moments that scare enough. That being said the film does revel in its mystery and use of visuals scaring the life out of me even without a jump-scare.
There’s a particular moment that changed up the scare game for the best. Doris is looking through the eye of the Ouija – the piece that moves with your hands – we know what to expect but we don’t get it, instead in the corner of the frame the demonic ‘thing’ is there, but quickly moves out of frame, as though we shouldn’t be looking at it. This is a moment that warrants the scare because it doesn’t present itself for you to scream at it, it shies away and leaves you to contemplate more what you saw. Top marks for that.
The pacing was a struggle for me, like I mentioned before, it took longer that out should to get going. Maybe I wasn’t scared so couldn’t feel the tension right at the beginning. Down the line the film makers create sudden jarring cuts to shots that take a second to register but quite a while to forget, in that creating a tense, atmospheric horror that doesn’t want to jump-scare you, but to keep you wondering what the hell you saw.
The mystery of the film is refreshing and created a backstory that once you learn it puts all of the pieces in place, that the resolution, really isn’t what you’d expect when you least expected it. The frights and the chills come from the innocence of the family and the wonder if they will survive.