Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess, shared a message—known only to the two of them—so that when the other died, the survivor could hop from séance to séance in search of the message, therefore proving or disproving communication to an afterlife. After her husband died, Bess met with a number of spiritualists, none of whom were able to provide the message. After seeing “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” maybe Bess should have ditched the mediums and phoned Hasbro.
It begins with a mother and her two daughters, all of whom chip in to the family business, which happens to be speaking to the dead on behalf of the living—dealers in peace of mind, if you will. Of course, it’s all a sham. The mother acts as the medium, while her two daughters shake tables and make ghostly silhouettes. Innocently enough, the mother picks up a Ouija board from the store, to serve as another prop in her play. She gets more than she bargained for, as the board possesses the youngest of her daughters—as movies have taught us, cute kids are far more susceptible to demonic viruses—and proceeds to wreak havoc upon their home and all who enter it.
Here we go again. At face-value, the film is the same, cookie-cutter spook-fest that comes out every month or so. A family’s down-to-earth issues—single mother trying to make it work; teenage daughter transitioning from girl to woman; youngest daughter missing her dead father—are grotesquely emphasized by supernatural forces. Think of it as primal scream therapy. But I have to say, the family dynamic is slightly more palpable than usual, and the supernatural forces this time around are slightly more interesting—but only slightly in both cases.
But forget all that sugary family stuff, you’re here to be frightened. If I can make a comparison, the scares in this film are akin to slipping on a banana peel in a comedy, or a tear gently falling on a photograph in a romance; suckers for the genre will howl or weep—or panic, in this case—while the rest of us will covertly check our watch. Your jump-scares are the film’s biggest export, while gnarly images come in at a close second. When the little girl’s mouth opens up wider than it physically should, as you see in the trailers, I kept thinking about the poster of “Super Size Me.”
Some points are deserved by placing the events in 1967s Los Angeles, a time and place combination that would make any film just a little bit better than it should be. The decision adds a heap of personality to the routine proceedings, whether that be in the vintage opening credits that set the mood, the black and white television that continually crackles in the background, or the clear aesthetic homage to the great horror films of that era.
I won’t spoil it, but the film’s ending teases a far more unique, wacky horror flick that the one we got. Imagine a horde of angry bees let loose in an insane asylum, and you’ll get the picture. Other than that, I’m not sure where else you can take this franchise that won’t feel like another monotonous punch in the head. Oh, I know. How about “Magic 8-Ball: Outlook Not So Good.”
2.5 out of 5 stars