Combustible Celluloid
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With: Annalise Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas, Parker Mack, Doug Jones, Chelsea Gonzalez, Lincoln Melcher, Nicholas Keenan, Michael Weaver, Ele Keats, Eve Gordon, John Prosky
Written by: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements
Running Time: 99
Date: 10/21/2016

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Best Laid Planchettes

Jeffrey M. Anderson

The 2014 Ouija was one of the worst horror movies in recent memory and a hit. But whatever force inspires people to make lazy, dashed-off sequels — like Adam Wingard's recent Blair Witch — sometimes also inspires people to scrap everything and start fresh. So now director Mike Flanagan, who made the excellent Oculus and the very good Netflix thriller Hush (and who has nothing to do with the original Ouija) has taken over for the unexpectedly good Ouija: Origin of Evil. (Both movies are officially based on the Hasbro board game.)

It's 1967, and the widowed Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, teen Paulina (Annalise Basso) and nine year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson), try to make ends meet with a bogus fortune-telling setup. No sooner does Alice buy a Ouija board than Doris begins channeling spirits from the other side. At first she helps with the family business, but before long the spirits turn malevolent, complete with the usual white eyes and stretchy mouths.

Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard represent the family unit as an unhealthy obsession; Doris prays not to God, but to her dead father, and even the local priest (Henry Thomas) donned the collar only after he lost a wife. And, in addition to conjuring up a retro look, the director uses many (purposely?) weird, off-putting, mainly interior compositions, as though these people were already stiffs. It's spooky, but also subtly, morbidly funny.

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