Excitement. A horror movie sequel to an original I didn’t see that was based on a board game. I had a quick Metacritic at the reviews of the first one to see if it was something I should catch up on, and the answer was no. But then Mike Flanagan’s name was attached to it – he did Oculus, which was really quite good – so I thought, let’s not hold our chickens too close*.
As far as I understand, the first Ouija movie featured the title board appearing in a house to be followed by scary faces and loud noises. This is the story of how that board came to be in that house in the first place.
Some kid bought it.
We have Alice, a single mother of two, in the sixties, pretending to communicate with the dead in exchange for money. Ouija boards were, I guess, new at that point, one seemed like a useful thing to include in a fake divination act until her youngest daughter basically sits next to one and gets immediately – immediately – possessed
One of the things I liked most about Oculus is that people took what was happening at face value. There’s a haunted mirror, let’s try to film and/or destroy it. Similarly here, when Alice realises her youngest daughter Doris is genuinely talking to actual dead people, she doesn’t trundle around denying it for forty minutes, she gets to talk with her dead husband, while racking up business. Of course, Doris is getting creepier and creepier while this happens.
Mercifully, it’s not all just jump scares, the build up is slow and measured, with lots of deep background shots and off kilter camera angles. The demon guy doesn’t appear often enough to get stale. The little girl is great, having lots of fun being a demon, particularly in a hilariously dark speech to her sister’s boyfriend.
It’s only half a really good movie though. The story of why the house has demons in the first place is almost like a parody of the Indian burial ground trope. When things inevitably roll to a climax, it almost feels perfunctory, bodies falling all around the place like a funhouse, something to be gotten past to get to the weirder, more interesting coda.
The movie is better than it has any right to be though, and avoids any easy “Origin of [blank]” headlines waiting for it. It’s on a par with the Conjurings and Sinisters of this world, and I hope it sends some money Flanagan’s way to get some more original stuff out there.
*This is not a real phrase