Susan Granger’s review of “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (Universal Pictures)
I’ve always been fascinated by the Ouija Board. For the past century, this creepy board game, manufactured by Hasbro, has intrigued players around the world.
Its popularity rose sharply after America’s Civil War, since families lost so many loved ones in battle, many of whom remained unidentified. Using the Ouija Board, grieving relatives often gathered in the parlor to consult the ‘spirits’ for reassurance.
But there’s also been a fear that using the device could lead to demonic possession, which led to admonitions for users, like never play alone, never play in a graveyard or where a terrible death has occurred, and never bid ‘goodbye’ to the entity with whom you are in contact.
So it’s altogether appropriate that a timely Halloween movie revolves around this supernatural concept.
Set as a prequel to “Ouija” (2014), the story revolves around California’s Zander family back in 1967.
Lonely, widowed Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) – a.k.a. “Madame Zander” – runs a fake medium business – creating séances with help from her daughters, 14 year-old Paulina (Annalise Basso) and 9 year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson), who simulate connections with a netherworld.
When Paulina discovers the Ouija Board at a neighborhood party, Alice buys one, thinking it will enhance her sessions. Problem is: young Doris becomes haunted by some malevolent Polish-speaking entity (Doug Jones) that turns out to be a Nazi doctor.
Predictably, Alice realizes that it’s time to summon a priest. In this case, it’s the principal of Doris’s parochial school, Father Tom (Henry Thomas), a widower who joined the seminary after his wife died.
Working with co-writer Jeff Howard and cinematographer Michael Fimognari, writer/director Mike Flanagan (“Oculus,” “Hush”) embraces the time frame wholeheartedly, utilizing the nostalgic Universal logo and old-fashioned place-card, giving these characters creditable backstories and, eventually, establishing a connection to the previous installment.
FYI: Ouija Boards have figured in other horror movies like “The Exorcist” (1973) and “Witchboard” (1986).
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is a spooky 6 – for those who enjoy being scared.