Ouija: Origin Of Evil
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Ouija: Origin Of Evil

Certain items in every genre are so ubiquitous that they frequently become characters in their right. Like the machine-gun in an action film for the hidden room and the mystery one of the most familiar objects found in a horror film, especially those of a supernatural nature is the Ouija board, occasionally called a spirit board. Unless you have lived a much-protected life, you undoubtedly know the construction of the board. Typically containing the letters of the alphabet, numbers and a few words representing binary decisions, the board allegedly allows communication between the living and the dead. Responses are given using a heart-shaped pointer call a planchette which is touched lightly by the participants allowing the contacted ‘spirit’ to communicate with them. Within the context of most horror stories, this board has the inherent power to open a portal to all the realms of existence. Such an opening such evil forces as unrested dead, demons and even ancient evils can pass through to the world of the living. As a means to drive the story, it is overused. In most instances, the viewers are discouraged from remembering this gateway to the domain of evil is a game whose trademark owned by the toy and game manufacturer, Hasbro, besides this ultimate instrument of evil, Hasbro also makes such threatening things as ‘Battleship, G.I. Joe’ and the undoubtedly bad to the bone, ‘Candyland.' I’m sure that some people enjoy investigating conspiracy theories would claim that as part of a diabolical plot of Satan that this deadly instrument of world domination and destruction cis available for purchase at almost any store for under $20. So many of the films that are dependent upon this toy a little more than cheap popcorn flicks the film on the consideration here, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’, is quite an exceptional movie. Adding to the degree of difficulty that faced the filmmaker Mike Flanagan is that this movie is a prequel to the 2014 film,’ Ouija,' directed and co-written by Stiles White. What I found to be amazing is that the aggregate score for the original movie was a dismal 7% while this film at a truly precious ranking in the 80% range. For people who are following the career of Mr. Flanagan this should come as little surprise since his previous movie, ‘Oculus,' was a sterling example of psychological horror supplanting the all too common gross visceral effects.

As children Debbie Galardi (Shelley Hennig) and her best friend, Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke), there’s the pass the time playing with an Ouija board with no expectations other than to allow respite to their boredom, not for any serious supernatural exploration. As the story moves into the present day Debbie tossing the board into a fire, apparently quite upset. She informs Laine she is afraid something very strange as happened to the board demanding its destruction. Shortly after Laine departs the board mysteriously reappears. Shocked, and acting as if possessed, Debbie commits suicide by hanging herself. I consider it a favorable sign when a horror movie uses the virtually mandatory prolog to set up the story in such an efficient fashion. Just a few brief moments we know that this particular Ouija board is indubitably supernatural and powerfully evil. Not only is it beyond destruction by normal means but it is capable of draining all hope of an individual. Laine attended a wake for Debbie's held the next day, along for emotional support was her boyfriend; Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) who and joined by younger sister Sarah (Ana Coto), close friend Isabelle (Bianca Santos), and Debbie's boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith). Consumed with grief, five friends met at Debbie’s house and decided to use her Ouija board to contact her. Despite the fact that this movie is incredibly well constructed one plot hole deemed necessary to ignite the dramatic tension trepidation that Debbie exhibited about the board to Laine, they waste no time in pulling out the board to contact their dead friend. Within the context of the movie, on the whole, this is a forgivable plot contrivance.

During the session, something perceived as a presence in the room smashes Pete head into a mirror. Noticeably, the space planchette distinctively communicates the phrase "hi friend." Soon the five of them begin seeing that phrase appear in the most unlikely places. Once again it must be remembered that the emotional responses displayed by characters within the context of the stories differ significantly what common sense would dictate. While many would never want to touch that board again, the friends are confident that they have contacted the benign presence of the only departed Debbie. Of course, Debbie is not the one they managed to reach. As they soon ought to discover it is a demonic entity that calls itself ‘DZ’ as revealed by the image of a young girl about sewn shut.

A story of this type can only reach a level of effectiveness in the hands of the filmmaker was exceptionally gifted in the difficult genre of psychological horror. So many filmmakers that decide to go into fear as the means of cinematic expression take the easy path, the visceral gore fest. Thankfully, there appears to be a growing trend in horror that is finally rebelling against the after the after the dreadful movies collectively referred to as ‘torture porn.' Films such as ‘Saw’ have made it popular to eschew any semblance of a cohesive plot and replace it with the most revolting and humiliating ways to mindlessly inflict pain. This film is the antithesis of this ‘cinematic style’ marking a return to a strong narrative and distinctive character development. The use of various common memes and archetypes is permissible as they are quite effective in crafting and retaining the necessary ominous mood. The difference is akin to a five-star chef in a short order cook each being given the same ingredients in charge to make a meal. They may start out with the same fundamental materials, but the success of the end product is completely dependent upon the skill and artistry of the preparer.

Mr. Flanagan is a filmmaker with an amazingly clear vision of how he wants his story to unfold. Great care was given to imbuing in the characters a sense of realism. Each of the individuals involved in the story constructed as complete, fully formed human beings, making them readily identifiable to the members of the audience, particularly pertinent stories for the supernatural foundation. The circumstances set beyond the parameters of reality require some means for the public to remain grounded, able to place themselves in the conditions described in the story. Mr. Flanagan achieves this with a definitive panache. Each of the characters comes alive as they drove the audience into their world. Mr. Flanagan is a master at infusing subtle nuances into most aspects of the story. It is the finesse displayed by Mr. Flanagan that can turn the most mundane elements of a horror story to a masterpiece of terror. There’s a broader appeal to this film thanks to hell the filmmaker can synergistically combine such an eclectic range of themes as, haunted house, exorcism and character driven drama and efficient paced work of cinematic terror.

 

bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletThe Making of Ouija:of Evil
bulletHome is Where the Horror is
bulletthe Girl Behind Doris
bulletFeature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer/Editor Mike Flanagan

Posted 01/14/2017

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