Cheap scares and minor thrills

By Nick Erickson, Staff writer

When “Ouija” hit theatres in 2014, it proved to scare like the famous board it was named after, but the plot development led to confusion among many. Its follow-up, “Ouija: Origins of Evil,” serves as a prequel to the original, and while being scarier than its predecessor and clarifying some of the cognitive dissonance from the first flick, it is still a little disjointed.

Set in 1967, the film revolves around Doris (Lulu Wilson), a 9-year-old girl. Her mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser)  has been trying to make a living as a fortune teller since her husband died. Alice has trained Doris and her sister to help make it all appear real, and decides to incorporate a Ouija board into her ensemble.

When Doris begins showing signs of actual spirit communication, including communications with her father, Alice is overjoyed.  It soon becomes apparent, however, that Doris isn’t making contact with friendly spirits, but rather ones that are seeking to take hold of her. She is soon possessed by a demon who hides behind her young girl façade. Once he realizes something horrific is underway, a priest named Father Tom (Henry Thomas) attempts to seize and retrieve Doris’ soul and rid her body of the evil spirits.

Director Michael Fimognari’s camerawork aids in providing an authentic nostalgic feel of the 1960s. He is also successful in blending this vibe with the modern camera aesthetic. Unlike the out of place scares in “Ouija,” tension is built more so now throughout creepy background scenes, and when the jump scares are present, Fimognari’s delivery of them is more satisfying.  The acting itself is superior to the first, with innocent little Doris’ portrayal of possession better than a group of high school seniors. Though there is relatively sparse bloodshed, there are scenes so haunting and jolting that it could push the boundaries of whether the film constitutes a “PG-13” rating.

While those elements all work in favor of the film, the chronology of the film is often as distraught as the first film. For those who have seen the first film, it’s interesting and convenient to see the backstory behind Doris and her sister, Paulina, that led to Paulina inhabiting a mental institution as an then elderly woman in the first film. This can still be perceived as confusing at times, with numerous sub-plots being woven in and out throughout the films duration.

These include  Paulina’s vague romance with a boy at school, Alice’s date with the girls’ principal and the undertones of Father Tom hitting on Alice. While these can be amusing, they distract from what really matters; there’s an oily demon possessing the body of a little girl, and it’s driving her to do unspeakable things. However, it’s not too terribly difficult to be entranced by the daunting soundtrack or the spine-tingling atmosphere that it’s easy to look past flaws and appreciate how simply scary the film is.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” is a lot more developed and cohesive than the original film, but as with every movie, it has its flaws. Without bringing an inspired plot, the film successfully provides harrowing moments, artsy camerawork and captures the creepy essence of Ouija boards that people believe to be true. While still hard to follow at times, one thing is for sure: many will reconsider taking their board out of the box.