Fear not, Mike Flanagan's horror prequel is a lot better than its ghastly predecessor
'So bland and uninspiring that it's less terrifying than a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.' That was the parting shot in our review of boardgame-based fright flick Ouija. Still, as bad as it was, the film clearly did well enough for Universal Pictures to greenlight a sequel. Which is why, two years later, we now find ourselves reviewing Ouija: Origin of Evil…
As the title indicates, this movie serves as a prequel to the original, dialing back the clock to 1967 to follow a cash-strapped widow who makes ends meet by performing faked seances with the help of her two daughters. However, when she introduces a ouija board into her readings, things start to get very real, very quickly.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is hardly the most original horror flick around, but in this instance that isn't a failing. Instead, director/co-writer Mike Flanagan (who previously gave us the 2013 haunted mirror movie Oculus) uses the set-up to deliver a solidly-constructed genre throw-back. And here the slow-boiling tension and scares are anchored to well-developed characters, given life by three fabulous central performances (young Lulu Wilson is especially deserving of praise).
Add to this some wonderful era-appropriate aesthetic touches (including the older Universal logo that appears pre-credits and the artificial cigarette burns marking reel changes) and you're left with an affectionate, enjoyable nod to a bygone period of cinema.
Picture: While Ouija: Origin of Evil was shot digitally, the filmmakers have gone out of their way to make it look like retro film stock. This extends to the use of older lenses and the decision to shoot anamorphically, but cropping this down to a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, simply to ensure that light sources have the right sort of look. The Blu-ray encode itself is very strong with authentic colour values, excellent black levels and negligible traces of noise.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix does exactly what you'd expect for a horror title. Surround channels are regularly called upon to enhance the onscreen scares with atmospheric effects and dynamic sudden jumps in level, while LFE info becomes more and more prevalent as the movie builds towards its finale. Nicely done.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: Bonus features include seven deleted scenes, and three featurettes – an overview of the entire production, plus videos about the main location and actress Lulu Wilson. Best of all, though, is an extremely illuminating commentary from director Mike Flanagan.
Extras rating: 3/5
We say: A solid little old-school shocker on a well-specified hi-def platter.
Ouija: Origin of Evil, Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 3.5/5
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