FUN FACT: It’s pronounced “wee-yuh.” “Oui” is French for “yes.” “Ja” is German for “yes.” Wee-gee is the lazy-American’s pronunciation because our delicate American mouths are so sensitive to political correctness that we mold words to make things easier. ‘Murica! Granted, it doesn’t account for a silly sounding name for a board game “Yes-yes Board,” but what do I know about foreign language?
Boy, they aren’t hiding the horror tropes on this one. The trailer even opens on an upbeat fake-out, and then the horror stuff begins. The board piece moves on its own, possessed white eyes, elongated jaws, clearly CG unnatural spinal bending, it’s pretty relentless. So… yeah, I don’t think this is going to be good. Not much more to say, I’m not a horror movie fan, but… I love punishing my brain with stupidity, I guess.
Let’s take a look at the cast. The film stars young Lulu Wilson. She’s only been in a couple of feature-length films in the past (DELIVER US FROM EVIL  and HER COMPOSITION ), but this will mark her first big role. I may not end up liking the film, but you gotta tell a kid congrats when her star gets that big. Plus, this won’t be her only horror film to her credit, as she’s slated for the upcoming film ANNABELLE 2 (2017). Alongside Wilson will be Annalise Basso, whom was a fairly big stand-out in the wonderful CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016). Once again, this marks her first big role (more focused on her rather than the ensemble), so another congrats is in order. Finally, mother hen of the cast is Elizabeth Reaser, known for HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (2016), the Twilight franchise, and YOUNG ADULT (2011). Others include Henry Thomas (THE LAST RIDE , DEAR JOHN , and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL ), and playing The Devil’s Doctor is the ever amazing mocap artist, Doug Jones (the Hellboy films, PAN’S LABYRINTH , and TV show FALLING SKIES).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Mike Flanagan, known for HUSH (2016) and OCULUS (2013). His partner-in-pen is Jeff Howard, also known for OCULUS. Composing the music are long-time collaborators with Flanagan, the Newton Brothers, having done all of his films. Finally, completing what appears to be a team of film-making, the cinematographer is Michael Fimognari, also known for many of Flanagan’s films, excluding THE LAZARUS EFFECT (2015). Oh, and one of the producers is randomly Michael Bay (13 HOURS , the Transformers movies, and ARMAGEDDON ).
Overall, expecting a lot of jump scares, no character development, and a whole lot of bullshit. This is my honest opinion of OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL.
The story opens with Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser), widowed mother of teen daughter Lina (Annalise Basso) and younger daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson), performing a séance in her suburban home. While the act of communicating with the dead is a sham that the clients believe, Alice does believe that she is doing it for noble reasons, trying to help her clients find peace with the loss of their loved ones. Life resumes and Lina hangs out with friends who use a Ouija board, which inspires her to tell her mom to include it in her séances, to which she does. However, this ends up inviting trouble. Doris attempts to use the board to communicate with her dead father and makes contact… but not with her father. A malevolent ghost possesses the girl, unbeknownst to the rest of her family and soon causes problems.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, this is a prequel to the critically panned 2014 film OUIJA. I wasn’t actually sure if it was… though that would make sense, wouldn’t it? Also, I hadn’t seen the sequel before seeing this one until later.
Yup. Went into this movie thinking it’d be bad, came out thinking it was pretty good.
Clearly, notes have been taken because the characters are pretty well-written. Doris is an adorable girl who doesn’t seem to fully comprehend that the spirit world isn’t real. Lina has a little more difficulty adjusting because she, while still young herself, is still old enough to understand her own loss and as a teenager, doesn’t really know how to cope. And of course, Alice is trying to hold everything together and be strong for her daughters, even though she’s struggling just as much. There is a genuine chemistry between this trio of actresses is pretty genuine. The best part is that there isn’t a cliché character. Everyone has their own emotional state and may not be on the same page all the time, but there is a definite bond. Lina isn’t a moody, anti-authority, “fuck you, mom” kind of teen. She sneaks out to hang out with her friends, just looking for some down-to-earth fun and find some semblance of happiness. And Doris isn’t the token cute kid. She does have her creepy moments post-possession, but pre-possession, she does have an innocent sweetness about her that easily nabs at your heart-strings.
I think one of my favorite elements, is that there are active attempts to figuring out how the ghost works. Like, there’s a scene where Father Tom (Henry Thomas) comes by the Zander home to verify Doris’ possession under the guise of doing a séance. He asks questions like, “What is my wife’s middle name?” The board answers with, “Lynn.” Later on, we learn that Father Tom was only thinking really hard about the name “Lynn” and that his wife’s real middle name is different.
Even the haunted dreams make sense. In most horror movies, you see this unbelievably stupid trend of spooky and creepy dreams from the main characters before they even encounter the supernatural stuff. This obviously makes no sense, but in this film, they save it for when it does. You see a possessed Doris whisper into Lina’s ear and only later does Lina get the creepy dreams. I love this. Proper explanation for why they occur at all. A very real argument could be that the evil spirit is breaking down the walls of her sanity and therefore make it easier to possess her.
If there is any trope that this movie does that I don’t understand is the efficiency of possessed people crawling on walls. There’s a scene where Lina is at the top of a set of stairs and Doris is at the base, staring up at her. Instead of just running up the stairs like a practical person, she takes… the wall. Um, logic escapes me on this one. Are stairs a possessed person’s one weakness? A ghostly allergy? On the other hand, I gave possessed-Doris a new theme song.
Despite certain uh-ohs, this is the definition of “learning from your mistakes.” Probably because this film had different writers working on it and had a better idea of how to make the previous story. While I certainly thought the first film was dull, forgettable, and a cliché-fest, this movie uses the clichés well, and more importantly, creates characters that are very engaging and sympathetic; the backbone of any story worth its tits and balls. Wilson is both wonderfully cute, and devilishly creepy, and Reaser and Basso are perfect trapped victims, and plenty of creeps and scares that’ll keep my lights on and my window open for a few days (yes, I really do that). A very well-done film and I’d be open to seeing it a second time.
My honest rating of OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL: 4/5
- BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN
- THE HANDMAIDEN
- KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES