Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) – Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan has quickly become one of my favorite writer/directors and I realized that there were still a number of his titles that I hadn’t written about for the blog. So color me happy as I dig into some other examples of his work.

Ouija: Origin of Evil is, in fact, a sequel to a 2014 teen horror film titled Ouija. Don’t worry if you’ve never seen or heard of it, as it doesn’t even come into play with this tightly crafted stand-alone story which features a couple of Flanagan’s regulars including Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, and Kate Siegel.

Set in the 1960s, Alice (Reaser), and her daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso), and Doris (Wilson) are dealing with the loss of their husband/father, while Alice ekes out a living as a fortune teller, conning the occasional mark, but trying to offer them solace about what comes next.

When Lina suggests they add an Ouija board to the act, having seen one in use at a party, young Doris immediately takes a shine to it, and, promptly ignoring the well-known rule about playing it alone, makes a connection.

There are some familiar Flanagan tropes here, strong female characters, hidden ghosts, well-crafted scares, and a poignant ending that swings up towards the horrific just in time for the credits.

Flanagan’s storytelling ability is on full display here, making use of the frame, the characters, and the well-crafted beats to tell a fun and haunting story.

Henry Thomas shows up as the local priest, Father Tom, who is also the principal of the girls’ school. Tom is dealing with a loss in his own life, and it’s easy to sense a connection being established between him and Alice, one that gets sidelined not only by the collar around his neck but by the increasingly dire situation with Doris.

It seems her abilities, which Alice is using for the family’s monetary gain in her fortune telling, are growing, and may not be hers, but belong to someone or something else. There are some familiar modern ghost tropes that get trotted out in the film, though used to good effect, including the wide elongating screaming mouth and the white eyes. Both of which get used very nicely just in the backgrounds of scenes which can be very unnerving.

The climax is tense, has some great effects, delivers some emotional payoffs, and arguably betrayals, but it’s all for the story. In fact, I truly enjoy the way Flanagan tells his stories, the scares work in these films because he takes the time to develop an emotional connection with the audience through the characters. Sure the film has a number of jump scares and creepy imagery, but it resonates stronger because of the connection we develop with his creations.

Gonna have to dig into some more Flanagan soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s