Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Annalise Basso
Director: Mike Flanagan
Running Time: 99 mins
Synopsis: In 1967, widowed mother Alice (Reaser) is raising her two kids whilst maintaining a seance scam business. When she decides to add the mysterious Ouija board game to the scam, it awakens something monstrous which in turn takes an interest in her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson).
A prequel to the critically savaged but modest hit Ouija, this unwanted return attempts to at least give itself some unique features but overall fails to make an impact. Set 40 years prior to the events of the first, Origin of Evil starts out strong with a creepy seance scene that reveals itself to be part of an elaborate scam set up by Alice and her two kids. As to be expected the creepy Ouija board is introduced to the mix and strange shit goes down.
What is remarkable is how little any of the scares work. Mike Flanagan is a decently talented director, his debut Occulus is effective stuff, but here he seems to be stumped into how to build proper scares. The ones that do stick tend to borrow from other more successful horrors, notably Insidious in the design of the main creature. I admire that Flanagan tends to focus on character over tricks but the strong performances from the main trio are let down by a muddied and quite frankly dull plot. Even now the night after, I am struggling to remember just what the violent spirits wanted.
Luckily the trio of women that populate the main cast, rather refreshing to see a female driven horror, give solid performances. Notably young Lulu Wilson as Doris. Ostensibly playing the usual creepy child but she gives the role some much welcome menace. Although as her body starts to do unnatural things, such as the image above, the nuance of her delivery is erased under a sea of silly effects.
Flanagan does give a few dashes of personality with the 60s style title cards and the occasional film reel burn that dominated the rough hewn films of the era. But it’s very much window dressing to what is ultimately a forgettable low rent horror.
Verdict: A marked improvement on the first film but that does not say a lot. A decent cast and some creepy moments sadly do not save us from the lack of ideas and dreary plot. Stick to the board game or even better throw The Conjuring 2 on.