Ouija: Origin of Evil Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
The 2014 Ouija was one of the worst horror movies in recent memory—and a hit. But whatever force inspires people to make lazy, dashed-off sequels sometimes also inspires people to scrap everything and start fresh. So now director Mike Flanagan, who made the excellent Oculus and the very good Netflix thriller Hush (and who had nothing to do with the original Ouija), has taken over for the unexpectedly good Ouija: Origin of Evil. (Both movies are officially based on the Hasbro board game.)
It’s the 1960s, and the widowed Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, teen Paulina (Annalise Basso) and 9-year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson), try to make ends meet with a bogus fortune-telling setup. No sooner does Alice buy a Ouija board than Doris begins channeling spirits from the other side. At first she helps with the family business, but before long the spirits turn malevolent, complete with the usual white eyes and stretchy mouths.
Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard represent the family unit as an unhealthy obsession; Doris prays not to God, but to her dead father, and even the local priest (Henry Thomas) donned the collar only after he lost a wife. And, in addition to conjuring up a retro look, the director uses many (purposely?) weird, off-putting, mainly interior compositions, as though these people were already stiffs. It’s spooky, but also subtly, morbidly funny.