Twelve years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, where they become the target of the doll-maker's possessed creation, Annabelle.
A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.
In 1967 Los Angeles, a young widow named Alice Zander works out of her suburban home as a spiritual medium, accompanied by her daughters, 15-year-old Paulina "Lina" and 9-year old Doris. The family is still reeling over the recent death of Roger, Alice's husband and the kids' father. At Lina's suggestion, Alice incorporates a Ouija board into her readings. While trying out the board, she unknowingly contacts a spirit named Marcus that begins to possess Doris. Alice receives a notice that the bank intends to foreclose on their home. Doris contacts the board for help, believing she is communicating with her dead father. The spirit leads her to a secret compartment behind the basement wall containing a pouch of cash. When she gives the money to her mother, the family has an Ouija session, believing they can contact Roger. When the board answers a question only Roger would know the answer to, a thrilled Alice begins believing that they are in contact with her dead husband..
Deft Direction and Stellar Acting Carries the Movie
If you first "Ouija" film, you might have been inclined to skip this addition (a prequel) to the series. No one would blame you. "Ouija" is a laughably awful film. "Ouija: Origin of Evil" however, is a surprisingly competent and thoroughly enjoyable horror movie.
Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that "O of E" turned out so well. With the steady guidance of director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus, Haunting of Hill House), one of the most consistent creators of scary stories in the business, we should expect high quality work. Once again, he delivers.
The story revolves around a recently widowed mother and her two daughters. At risk of losing their old, creepy and possibly haunted (definitely haunted) house, the mother resorts to work as a fake medium to make money, calling on her daughters to contribute to the ruse. Things get more exciting when the mother brings home a Ouija board, not knowing that sinister spirits would soon possess her younger daughter.
Then, as we witness the little girl's behavior grow increasingly strange, our goosebumps grow increasingly prevalent (because creepy little girls are a reliably freaky scary movie trope). The older sister soon suspects something, the little girl crawls on walls, and a priest shows up to help. That stuff is predictable and somewhat unoriginal. But this movie still works because of its splendid acting - the little girl, Doris (Lulu Wilson), is particularly impressive - and deft direction.
Mike Flanagan clearly knows how to run the show. He makes sure that "O of E" becomes a far cry from other horror movies of this ilk, which possess so little inventiveness in their direction.
With this film, we are treated to elegant camera movement, unnerving closeups, and evocative framing and angle choices that all appear purposeful and thought through. Instead of calling attention to an evil presence on screen with a hard cut, we simply see a shadowy figure crouching on the edge of the frame.
Flanagan also chooses to include limited jump scares and, mercifully, no fake jump scares. Fake jump scares are what I call those moments of building tension when the sound goes silent, then suddenly there's a blast of jarring noise that makes us jump out of our seats as the camera reveals a harmless friend character. It's a cheap manipulation, a dirty trick. We deserve better, and Flanagan gives us better.
Rather than turning to a loud and bombastic score to sell scares, Flanagan relies on the editing and our natural inclinations as viewers to feel scared. He trusts that when something scary that unexpectedly appears in front of us on screen, it will deliver chills.
"O of E" delivers a slow-building eerie viewing experience. There are no excessive bursts of violence. Nothing is over-the-top. It's a small-scale movie, but one that is nonetheless effective. I recommend it to any fans of possession movies, especially if you prefer ones devoid of gore.
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