After the dumpster fire that was 2014’s “Ouija,” it’s a most impressive feat to see Mike Flanagan follow it up with a damn good horror film that serves as a prequel. It’s also kind of shocking how Flanagan is able to deliver a truly creepy horror movie that also almost makes the original “Ouija” retroactively better; if just a little. While “Origin of Evil” is not a masterpiece and feels a bit like a pseudo-sequel to “The Conjuring,” director Mike Flanagan is able to do what the original film couldn’t. He involves us in an engrossing and interesting story about loss, death, and grief, and how evil can prey on our desperation to want closure in a world where very few of us can actually get it.
Thankfully the studio allow director Mike Flanagan to mostly ignore the original film in favor of a new tale and new characters with the only recurring plot element being the ever dreaded Ouija board. This time, the prequel to “Ouija” is set in 1965 where we set upon the original house from the first movie and meet widow Alice Zander. She works as a medium that helps the grief stricken and mourning come to grips with the death of their loved ones with the assistance of her daughters Lina and Doris. When Alice realizes that she’s not making enough money to keep the house, she buys a Ouija board, which she hopes will help spice up the sessions and bring in more clients. But she breaks the cardinal rules of the ouija board and invites in a demonic entity that immediately makes contact with youngest daughter Doris.
Before long Doris begins experiencing a change in attitude, prompting Alice and oldest daughter Lina to suspect something has invited itself in to their home, and it’s not their long passed father. Director Mike Flanagan thankfully takes none of the cues from the original movie, opting much more for mounting suspense and inherent terror from subtle shots. There are a lot of great moments that shock successfully and don’t rely on a music cue to jolt audiences. From glowing eyes behind Lina as she struggles to sleep, to the horrific glimpse of a mouthless demon, director Flanagan is does a damn good job of adding a lot of great spice to what was originally such a mediocre tale with lackluster mythology. Once we know that something has contact Doris, her journey to discover what it is that has begun communicating with her is absolutely creepy.
Director Flanagan does a great job keeping us on edge, especially when characters look in to the glass of the planchette, we just know we’re about to glimpse in to something we’re better off never having seen. There’s still so much to be explored about the Ouija board in this cinematic universe, and director Flanagan hints on a wider supernatural realm, while also chronicling the birth of a brand new evil. The cast do a bang up job all around, including Elizabeth Reaser, and Lulu Wilson who steals the show as our protagonist turned nemesis Doris. Director Mike Flanagan adds a lot to the back story of the film series, giving “Origin of Evil” a great dimension to it. It’s a eerie and often very creepy follow up, and I hope we’re given another installment to further delve in to this twisted world within the board.