Given Hasbro’s track record of making consistently cruddy movies out of their product line, low expectations are in order for this prequel to the wildly successful but insipid 2014 adaptation of their classic board game. But the toy giant handing the franchise keys over to Mike Flanagan is probably the most creatively sound decision they’ve made yet. Flanagan, who’s caught the attention of indie horror watchers with films like Absentia and, in particular, haunted mirror spooker Oculus, isn’t a radical miracle worker, but the difference is like night and day.
Where the first was a pedestrian, eminently forgettable teen horror, understandably dumped straight to DVD here, Ouija: Origin of Evil is better crafted in all respects, with a revitalised commitment to characterisation that minimises the sense that we’re being fed shameless, watered-down product placement.
It isn’t necessary to see the first one to make sense of this. The plot, about a widowed scam artist (Elizabeth Reaser) who exposes her two daughters to supernatural entities after introducing the titular board into her fortune-telling repertoire, is easy enough to follow.
Stylistically, the film is moulded in unabashed retro mode: old grainy Universal Pics logo, cigarette burn reel changes, ‘60s period setting, De Palma-esque split diopter shots. But it rarely feels like self-conscious pastiche. Flanagan’s ample character-building legwork and witty, inventively rigged scares, alongside the cast’s solid performances, raise this one above the average cash-grab.
For fans of Bad Seed-type movies, it’s worth a look alone for the exceptional Lulu Wilson, whose 9-year-old demon child gives a monologue about strangulation that’s sure to go down as one of the genre’s most chilling moments.
‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ Movie Times