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Review: Spirits weak with‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’

Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee

The title of “Ouija: Origin of Evil” should be changed to the more appropriate “Ouija: Bored.” This lackluster follow up to the incredibly bad “Ouija” of two years ago is more likely to put you to sleep than keep you awake.

The scariest thing about the original “Ouija” was that the viewer might get crushed under its pile of cliches or fall out of their seat from boredom. It’s nice to see that tradition continues through the sloppy script by director Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard.

For no real good reason, the film is set in 1967 where Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson), do readings in their home. All of the mystical moments are manufactured by the trio but they believe this is justified because they are making people feel good.

At this point, you should be aware that several spoilers are coming.

When a Ouija board is introduced into the act, the faked spiritual connections become real. That’s not completely true, as it’s not the Ouija board that has created the connection with evil spirits but the house where the family has lived for years. There’s already been a horror film called “House,” so in one of the endless lazy moves of writing, the film ends up trying to build off the Ouija board idea with little success.

That’s just the first of numerous mistakes. The most unforgivable act is making the 9-year-old Doris the primary vehicle for the evil spirits. Making a child a potential killer is more unsettling than scary. It’s bad enough when scares are cultivated by putting children in peril. Making them the monster is absolutely wrong.

Another big problem is the setting. The house holds a connection to World War II criminals. If this is supposed to be a prequel to “Ouija,” the ties are not that strong.

Having already stumbled with his approach to the core evil of the film and the time period, Flanagan completely guts any terror with a series of moments that have been used so often in horror films the chills are gone. Seeing a person scamper across the ceiling doesn’t have the punch it once did.

Give Reaser credit for trying to breathe life into the project. Just as she did in all of the “Twilight” movies, she has an uncanny ability to make even the most preposterous seem real. It’s a good try, but not nearly enough to save the project.

The same can’t be said for Henry Thomas, who appears one nod away from dozing off in portraying Father Tom. The difference in his emotional acting range between caring and concerned is so thin even a magnifying glass can’t reveal the difference.

You don’t have to ask a Ouija board about the quality of this failed attempt at horror. If you did, it would spell out STINKER.

‘OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL’

Zero stars

Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Parker Mack, Henry Thomas, Annalise Basso, Doug Jones

Director: Mike Flanagan

99 minutes

Rating: PG-13 (disturbing images, terror)