A hauntingly antiquated atmosphere infuses Ouija: Origin of Evil, a superior context to the 2014 horror film which used the board game as its inspiration. Set nearly 50 years earlier, with its expressive style suggestively rendering its period setting, the film delivers a gratifying fraction of scares before declining into genre clichés in its final act.
It begins tranquil and playful enough in the Zander's living-room, Los Angeles, 1967, where it's business is consistent. In their case, the business is a séance scam run by widowed mom Alice (Elizabeth Reaser, "Young Adult") and her two daughters, Doris (Lulu Wilson, "The Millers") and Paulina (Annalise Basso, "Captain Fantastic"). Naive but hopeful customers have come to speak to departed relatives, family members whom Alice tells clients she can reach via an spectral connection.
Alice runs a fake psychic business out of her home, using her daughters as associate to help fool her grieving clients with illusions imitating contact from the dead. The financially battling single mother doesn't think of herself as fooling her clients, but rather soothing them in their time of need.
What you haven't seen is director Mike Flanagan's joyful disregard for assembly. Equal parts horror and internal home-invasion clip, "Ouija" is as chilling and nerve-wracking as they come. It's a sort of film heart attack - hopelessly damaging to the body and mind, with a slow healing time.
That last part fittingly describes how I felt sitting in the dark, watching "Ouija" for 99 minutes. It didn't matter that there are people around me. Under Flanagan's splendid direction, I felt entirely alone in the milieu he had fabricated. To be both artistically and narratively charmed in the proceedings is a rare feat, especially for a genre overflowing with empty, cheap fare. But there's nothing second-rate or lusterless about "Oujia: Origin of Evil." It surmises with the eternity and the spirit world with rare rational curiosity.
The film paints characters as cubic humans, trapped in an unavoidable hell scape of their own scheme. It then dives head-first into the upsetting mentality of these people. It does all of this for its intact running time, without pause or dips in quality. And before you know it? I mean this in the best way feasible: I don't ever want to see it once more.