A bit of fanfare has been made director Mike Flanagan’s use of split diopter shots and insistence on inserting cigarette burns in the corner of the screen in Ouija: Origin of Evil. These techniques work with the retro vibe in this ’60s-set horror prequel, but this is more than just aesthetic fetishism. They speak to the great care given to constructing the whole film. You’ll see the denizens of the spirit world lurking around the corners, and occasionally bursting into the foreground, but only when you are damn well supposed to.
The fact that Ouija: Origin of Evil is so thorough might lead viewers to make some faulty conclusions and connections, which may just be intentional, and even if they are not, they are still disorienting in a way that great horror often is. One of the main girls is played by Annalise Basso, who was previously in the underrated Oculus, also directed by Flanagan. As Ouija becomes increasingly trippier, it almost feels like Basso is playing the same character she did in (the very trippy) Oculus. Of course, Origin of Evil is actually a prequel to another Ouija movie, but not very many people saw that and I imagine those who did promptly forgot about it.
Much of the success of Origin of Evil rests on the little shoulders of Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger and more possessed of the two main girls. She continues a long and vaunted tradition of creepy horror kids, establishing her own place in this hall of fame by adding hints of nonchalance and ace comic timing. There is one moment when she replaces the second half of an oft-repeated mantra with “blah blah blah,” which is liable to floor viewers with an unexpected chuckle. This film does not reinvent the supernatural genre, but it never lets you take it easy.
I give Ouija: Origin of Evil 8 Skeletons out of 10 Crawlspaces.