After a summer packed to the brim with noteworthy horror installments, Ouija: Origin of Evil has some tough acts to follow. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus), this tangentially related sequel to 2014's lackluster Ouija centers on Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), a widow who's running a sham fortune-telling business out of her home in 1967 with the help of her young daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson).
Unfortunately, when Alice decides to spice up their gimmick with a Ouija board, the family accidentally put themselves in harm's way. Clairvoyant young Doris plays with the board alone (which is against the rules of Ouija), and becomes the unwilling vessel for an unsavory spirit who plans to wreak havoc. With the help of Father Tom (Henry Thomas), the principal of the girls' Catholic school, the family must face their worst fears and unearth untold horrors in order to banish the evil spirit from whence it came.
Though the film is punctuated by moments of both skin-crawling creepiness and genuine humor, it loses track of its plot partway through and turns inconsistent and occasionally silly. Perhaps this is due to a misguided attempt to supplement the movie's horror lore with too many layers of unnecessary and skeletal subplots, which leads to a confusing, sloppy pileup of loose ends that contribute nothing to the larger story. In this case, it would have been better to keep things simple.
The film's saving grace is Lulu Wilson, who proves to be an exceptional young actress. She is perfectly creepy and unsettling as the possessed Doris: Her spine-tingling, dead-eyed stare and spot-on line readings rank her among horror cinema's all-time-great haunted children (seriously, keep an eye out for her hair-raising monologue about strangulation). Wilson will hopefully grace the silver screen with her presence again soon, and maybe even become a genre staple.
All in all, Ouija: Origin of Evil makes for fairly eerie and somewhat entertaining theater viewing for Halloween, complete with a handful of jump scares. However, if you are looking for a deeper, more original horror flick with intrigue and fleshed-out ideas, this isn't the film for you.