Ouija: Casting Review

Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 12.28.58 PMThe mere conception of the Ouija board game has transcended it’s mystical qualities of not only it’s origins (from the early 1890s), but seemingly so – decade after decade – has supplanted it’s own proverbial seed into cultural relevance from the ominous side of society’s deepest and darkest secrets. One of those rebirths took place in arguably the most turbulent yet spiritual decade of contemporary, American history: the 60s. And, rightfully so, this is where we find ourselves within Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Set in a suburb of 1967 Los Angeles, Ouija: Origin of Evil is this year’s Halloween supernatural, horror film produced by the guys who do it best, Blumhouse Productions. It’s the prequel to 2014’s Ouija also staring Elizabeth Reaser. Flanagan’s story this year, much like his previous pictures (HUSH, BEFORE I WAKE), is fairly contained as we find ourselves in the personal home of Alice Zander, played by a swindling, widow fortune-teller, Reaser, and her two kids, Lina and Doris.

It’s the casting of this year’s Ouija, however, that truly holds the film together. Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson come across as veterans in a genre so easily ridden with new, unexperienced talent. These two, who – at the very pinnacle of the film’s story – become the protagonist and the antagonist in a strange, yet foreseeable twist. Playing a teenager with a new boyfriend, Basso slyly steals the performance away from veteran, Reaser, and shines as the quick-witted older sister.

By the third act, the audience slowly begins to realize that it’s Basso who holds the key to the films plot-line, and not the star or new talent, Lulu Wilson. But, give credit where credit is due. It’s Flannagan who strategically opens with a cynical teenager who denies any mystical qualities of her friend’s new Ouija board game, ironically climaxing as she transforms into the spiritually possessed daughter; then, ends with her sentenced to a mental institution where we assume it’s only a matter of time until she breaks out and continues this story onward into a trilogy.

This isn’t to say that Reaser doesn’t account for much. Quite the contrary, she’s the rock and the tragic protagonist who the audience is routing for. The single mom with two kids in a house possessed by demons from long ago. It’s her ignorance of the lineage of her own home that the audience is quick to forget and easily forgive. But, I’m sure there will be a few, including myself, who would have liked for the film to delve more into that mystical history. Instead of intermittently showcasing an unworldly demon who mimics the “boogie-man,” Flannagan should have exposed more of the dark past of the first resident of Reaser’s home: an exiled, former-Nazi who had a fancy for doing human experiments in the basement.

Of course, maybe that was a contributing aspect to its PG-13 rating. Should it have been rated R, I’m sure Flannagan would have had more leeway to dive into the darkest of pasts and . That being said, however, the film did contain many attractive and historically “spooky” features: the charming priests, the peculiar younger daughter, and the 60s backdrop. On that similar note, an seemingly pivotal aspect within the film which carried an unfortunately haphazard subplot, was the introduction of the Reaser’s dead husband. Flanagan could have down without this B-story, as it only distracted the audience from an already mysterious movie. Simplicity is best.

It’s easy to forgive the horror film’s shortcomings as you remind yourself that it’s only rated PG-13, and you’ll marvel at the young talent and watch out for their upcoming features.

 

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Jess

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