By Brendan Callaghan
Opening in cinemas this week just in time for Halloween is the latest addition to the ‘Ouija’ franchise.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is a prequel to 2014’s poorly received Ouija – a contrived and dull attempt at fright horror that most film fans would argue did not merit a second installment.
However, this cleverly-stylised and initially subtle depiction is a much improved rehashing of the admittedly trite and low-concept premise of the original Ouija.
The concept is that (surprise, surprise!) Ouija boards are inherently freaky and dangerous and basically should not be messed with – especially if you’re a paranormally receptive kiddy-wink with a penchant for the occult and randomly materialising in the corners of rooms when you least expect it, just within shot.
Recently-widowed mother Alice Zander unwittingly invites authentic evil into her home with the addition of a Ouija board to her burgeoning family séance scam business.
Things start to go all Poltergeisty when youngest daughter Doris starts communicating with the ghost of her dead father and a few spooky interfaces with supplementary spirits plunge the family home into a supernatural battle of wits with an especially irksome (and disarmingly named) ghoul called Maurice.
The film makes liberal but effective use of the type of jumpy scares that you know are coming but which work regardless.
It manages to create a sense of foreboding and unease in all of its more silent scenes; creating a stomach-churning expectation that something twisted and threatening lies just outside the frame of the camera – patiently waiting to jump into shot.
Ratcheting up the tension through some genuinely frightening scenes with a touch of dramatic irony and a brilliant and possessing performance by its young star Lulu Wilson this movie is a good pick for Halloween.
The young star offers a brilliantly unsettling portrayal that makes her a shoe-in for this year’s Creepiest-Kid Award (Disclaimer: not an actual award). Its finale is horrifically dark and the conclusion of the story is surprisingly and refreshingly uncompromising.
In hindsight the behaviour of Alice (the mother) is perhaps the catalyst for the events which eventually transpire.
Indirectly habituating her children in the art of deception and teaching them how exactly to profit off the misfortune of strangers serves as ethical justification for all the spooky goings-on that occur as a consequence.
In short the moral code of the tale could possibly be interpreted as “Don’t train your kids to scam the recently bereft” – a lesson the fictional Zander family have to learn the hard way.