By Greg Canzio (Fort Pierce, FL, US)
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Yes, Ouija: Origin of Evil is better than its predecessor. But watching a potato bake in an oven for an hour and a half is more entertaining. But is the prequel any good?

Set in the 1960s, Ouija: Origin of Evil follows a widow named Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), who works as a Medium with her daughters Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice buys an Ouija board, a prop used to talk to the dead. Things turn deadly when the game summons an evil spirit that possesses her youngest daughter, Doris. With the help of a priest (Henry Thomas), Paullina and Alice must stop the spirit before it destroys their family.

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a valiant effort by director Mike Flannigan to put life back in this dead franchise. While he succeeds with some aspects, particularly during the film’s first act, Ouija: Origin of Evil quickly loses steam. Flannigan, best known for the underrated Oculus and masterfully crafted Hush, makes a good looking film. Everything from the old school Universal logo, clothing, and the use of “cigarette burns” puts you right in the 1960s. But Flannigan fails to pull the trigger during his best moments of tension. When he finally goes for broke, viewers will have to settle for subpar scares and a terrible CGI evil spirit.

What the film did get right was the casting of Lulu Wilson. Wilson is tremendous as Doris. She must be from the same factory the cast of Stranger Things were made in. Unfortunately, Wilson is subjected to about every cliché in the book and an insanely ineffective use of CGI. The rest of the cast is rather dull, delivering some painfully forced dialog. Basso is unable to recreate the intensity she displayed in Oculus, Reaser’s portrayal of Alice lacks fortitude, and Thomas is the dullest of them all. He blandly explains the dangers Doris and the family are facing without any sense of urgency in his voice. None of the actors besides Wilson seem to care about the film and neither will the viewer.

The third act of the film is where the biggest problems occur. While Flannigan slow burns through the first two acts, he decides to cram in an annoying amount of laughable cheap thrills during the film’s finale. In an effort to heighten the scares, Flannigan somehow connects Nazis to all of the madness. It doesn’t work. Instead, the film goes from a mildly interesting tale to a confusing mess lacking any sense of urgency. Upon hearing the news that her daughter has been taken over by an evil spirit, Alice seems unfazed. This becomes a wildly frustrating reoccurrence as the actors continue to undersell the dangers of the evil spirit.

Maybe Ouija: Origin of Evil was muddled down by its restrictive PG-13 rating, but they are many films with the same rating that were able to be effectively scary. The film does have striking similarities to 2012’s Sam Raimi produced, The Possession, which was received rather poorly by critics but is the superior of the two. It’s a shame the film turned out so poorly as Flannigan is certainly a competent director. And there are sparks of where he shows his range of abilities. But Flannigan made the mistake of making a prequel to a film no one liked, giving backstories to characters no one cared about. It would have been wise for him to make a reboot with no connection to the 2014 abomination. But the wisest thing to do is to stop making films based on board games. Sorry Hasbro.

Rating: 2/5

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