Going to see “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” a prequel to the 2014 Blumhouse film “Ouija,” is like going to see a horror movie in the 1960s.
The story is set in the late 60s, and everything in the film from the color scheme, set dressing and costumes to musical choices make the audience feel as if they have traveled through time.
Director Mike Flanagan, who has received well-deserved praise in the genre for recent releases “Oculus,” “Hush” and “Before I Wake,” even opened the film with the old vintage-looking Universal logo and used old cigarette burn cue marks to give the illusion that, in this digital age, the audience is viewing the movie on 35mm film.
If it wasn’t for the clear and aesthetically pleasing picture and the unique flowing camera movements, people may be fooled into thinking “Ouija: Origin of Evil” was really shot in 1967.
The storyline of the movie, nonetheless, is far from old-fashioned. Flanagan takes the premise from the original movie, which was panned by both critics and fans, and creates a remarkable new plot that both builds on the original story and makes a great stand-alone film.
Widowed mother of two daughters Alice Zander (played by Elizabeth Reaser) runs a fortune-telling scam out of her house — the same haunted house seen in “Ouija.”
Any true connection she has with ghosts and the spirit world are simply good business and showmanship, using special effects to fool clients. That is, until her oldest daughter Lina (played by Annalise Basso, who is known for her role as the young Kaylie in “Oculus”) convinces her to buy a Ouija board to add to her act.
This is the moment that Doris (Lulu Wilson), Alice’s youngest daughter, begins to exhibit extraordinary gifts of a psychic medium. Desperate to talk to her father again, Doris uses the Ouija board to speak with several different spirits. They seem friendly enough until the board spells out the words “Hi friend,” which anyone who has seen the first film knows is a very bad sign.
Throughout the movie, as evil beings start possessing Doris, audience members learn more of the intriguing backstory of the house and the ghosts that inhabit it.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” surpasses its predecessor on multiple levels. Rather than making another film about teenagers dying one by one, Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard focus on a family and the relationships they have with one another.
By the time the scariest scenes of the movie come around, most of which involve Doris’s big mouth and that inhumanly wide grin, viewers genuinely care about these characters and want to see them make it to the end credits alive.
Of course, with this being a horror film and a work of Mike Flanagan, we can pretty much bet that not all of them will.