Alright, so first thing’s first: when I first saw the trailer for “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” I didn’t actually realize it was a prequel to “Ouija” (2014), which is a movie I neglected to see because, honestly, the premise sounded stupid. It was stupid then, it’s stupid now, and I feel like I should have made a better choice. I didn’t, though, so here’s a review of “Ouija: Origin of Evil.”
There are spoilers ahead, so be warned.
So I went into this movie with the expectation that it was probably part of a series because of the subtitle, however, I didn’t know until after the fact that “Ouija 2: Electric Boogaloo” is a backstory for Doris, the evil, creepy ghost girl from the first movie. Even with that information, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
I won’t lie, I don’t get why people are so terrified of Ouija boards in the first place. Their relationship to the devil really only was started in earnest following its use as a prop in “The Exorcist,” but let’s be honest. You can get the same results from a Ouija board as you could by pulling out Scrabble tiles. Actually, Scrabble tiles would probably be a lot more honest, and would make more sense since one of the ways people would try to contact spirits before the advent of the Ouija board would be to literally call out the alphabet and ask for whatever ghost to make a movement or sound when they hit the right letter. Anyway, you could just as easily be saddled by a haunted Monopoly board (which, in my opinion, would be way worse) as you could be by a haunted Ouija board. It’s about the energy you’re inviting into the house.
One of the things that made me want to see this movie was the fact that the mother is a fake medium who claims to offer closure for her customers, but really just scams them. Her daughters being enlisted to help with the family business? Great. Actually this movie would have been a lot cooler if it had been a female-version of “Supernatural,” but it wasn’t so we won’t go there. In any case, there were some things that I liked about this movie. The setting drew me in initially, though the old tunes meant to immerse the viewer into believing that this is The Sixties were more hoakey. No thanks.
The central prop of the movie, the actual Ouija board, doesn’t do it for me. For one thing, even during the 1960’s, they didn’t look like that, and I feel like if they had just left the board alone, it would have been much more effective. Isn’t it scarier to think that this thing that you might have in your own house as a game looks the same as this portal to hell used by the characters in this movie? Plus, Ouija boards already look cool as it is (that’s why they sell Ouija merchandise). No need to try to make it unique.
Frequently throughout the movie, we’re reminded of what time period it is by the television and conversation regarding sending men to space and walking on the moon, but besides giving us a date and time, the moon updates don’t do much for the movie. I don’t think they really did anything for it, and we would have been just fine if it had been something like, say, “The Twilight Zone” instead. Thematically, the movie itself makes no references of bringing evil to the moon, and space exploration itself is supposed to act as a metaphor for moving forward. This movie is 1. A Prequel and 2. Stuck on demons of the past. Why talk about the future in the background then?
These little details that I assume are meant to create better audience enjoyment wind up being ineffective and pointless. There is a scene where Alice threatens her daughter’s potential boyfriend with a palm reading, which was hilarious as someone who has also tricked people into thinking they were getting a real reading and then using it as a way to tell them not to screw around, but it bummed me out that we didn’t get to see her as a genuine medium (or her daughters, since possession really isn’t the same as reading)–despite being told that it runs in her family.
Character motivations were all over the place. It was hard to parse exactly what was driving any of the characters, and the biggest problem with this comes up with the vengeful spirits. We’re meant to assume that they would want, obviously, revenge, since they were brutalized and murdered and then hidden in the basement, but wouldn’t they want revenge on, I don’t know, dudes who look like the Nazi doctor who did this to them? When you’ve been murdered after being tortured (and we’re led to believe that many of these victims were Holocaust survivors before being once again found by one of the men who tortured them in the camps–which brings up all other kinds of implications that Aren’t Good), are you doomed to become something evil that possesses the bodies of young girls? What kind of message does that say about victims of horrific (and in this case, ethnic and racially motivated) crimes? It doesn’t make sense, and the position that these vengeful spirits are in leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Further more, the ending doesn’t do the movie any favors in that regard, either. Normally, I don’t really care what happens after the evil has been defeated in a movie. For one thing, I prefer it when at least one person gets away, and I like being allowed to make the assumption that maybe everything worked out alright in the end. The only movie I’ve really liked that didn’t do that was the first “Nightmare on Elm St.” because the way it ends is so surprising and catches you off guard.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” doesn’t do it well, though. For one thing, we have Lena, the one survivor of what happened, in a mental institution, presumably for the criminally insane, since she [SPOILER] stabbed her mother while possessed by the vengeful spirits. Any time a horror movie portrays mental illness, there’s probably going to be a sense of, “Can you please not?” because frequently, it’s not done in a way that’s appropriate or respectful towards people who deal with mental illness on a regular basis.
Two, and this is what really gets me, Doris is back. As the evil ghost girl that we see in “Ouija” (2014). Why is this troubling? Well, when Lena technically kills Doris too (she has to sew her mouth shut to stop the spirits from talking, it’s bad and winds up not actually working, I guess), we hear Doris say, “Daddy!” Because she’s dead. She gets to see her dad. Alice sees him too, when she’s dying. Let’s assume that dad, Roger, was a good dude, and this was the family getting to move on into the afterlife. That would make Lena’s survival not mean a whole lot if she winds up not getting to be with her family in the end, but it also makes me wonder, well, if Doris’s spirit is technically in heaven with her mom and dad, what’s the thing that attacks the doctor at the end? We’re told it’s Doris, but these things don’t add up.
Overall, the movie wasn’t well planned. There are some good moments, but it lacks a resolution at the end.
As a side note that has little to do with the movie and more with movie etiquette than anything else: I didn’t have a good time when I went to see this movie. Not because the movie itself wasn’t good, but because the other people in the theater felt the need to talk during the entire thing. It’s one thing to lean over and whisper something to your friend when you notice something, or to shout when there’s a jump scare, but if you’re going to the movies, it’s not like you’re watching something in your own private living room. Other people are there who have also paid to see the movie, not listen to your conversation as you talk at a normal speaking volume. People started shouting at each other during the movie to tell others to shut up, and it wound up being a really unpleasant situation. I was contemplating asking for a refund because I feel like I missed a lot of the movie on account of other people just generally being rude, and was told that I should have gone out and told a manager, which was also a bummer. Why should I have to miss even more of a movie I paid to see so I can get a manager to tell people to stop talking? In any case, if you go to the movies, show some respect to the other people there. It’s not your house, and it’s not fair to other patrons if you decide to talk through the whole thing.
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