*** This review contains spoilers ***
A widowed fortune teller who decides to incorporate a Ouija board into her fake routine soon meets real evil when the board starts calling to her daughter, uncovering a horrific secret.
Director Mike Flanagan’s 1967 setting gives it a different feel to many of its contemporary rivals. In its eerie effective first 40 minutes Ouija’s cast shine, it’s only in the special effects driven latter half the character build up which Flanagan and co skilfully created is unnecessarily thrown out. Elizabeth Reaser’s Alice Zander who believes they’ve contacted her dead husband is sadly side lined in favour of digital spectacle. Child star actor now an adult Henry Thomas is particularly notable, his priest Hogan character with a past is played out well. Young actress Annalise Basso as Lina and even younger Lulu Wilson as Doris are memorable, the two sisters feel real enough.
With some help from The Newton Brothers’ score the Ouija board scenes and planchette usage gives some chills as they talk to an entity who they think is their father. It becomes noticeably derivative in the last act, borrowing The Matrix’s Neo’s closed mouth effect, The Exorcist with possessions and the Exorcist III where Doris skitters across ceilings to name a few, there’s enough jump scares and creepy faces to retain interest with its World War Two connection twist. The stretched face look is over used and to Wilson’s credit her performance can be spooky enough without it. The dark shadows darting in the corn of the eye are particularly well executed and more effective than the big stunt set ups.
As a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija it arguably surpasses its predecessor, but in a sea of horrors it’s another addition that simply can’t compete with the classics or more recently The Conjuring films and Exorcist TV series, but Flanagan and writer Jeff Howard thanks to the good small cast ensemble have a solid stab at it.