‘Ouija’ misses the mark on Halloween horror

Child actress Lulu Wilson plays Doris Zander, a girl possessed by the spirit of a Ouija Board, in “Ouija: Origins of Evil.” (Internet Photo)

Every year around the end of October, Hollywood studios bank on the prospect of Halloween to get audiences into theaters to see scary movies. So much so, that production companies are often rushed to churn horror movies that are generic, derivative, not scary and just plain boring.

This year we rang Hollywood’s doorbell and they gave us “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” the movie equivalent to the Almond Joy, a candy that is a bit interesting, but ultimately one that nobody wants.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” is a prequel to 2014’s substanceless cash cow “Ouija.” And while “Origin of Evil” was an improvement on its predecessor, it still disappoints in completely different ways.

The film’s admittedly interesting plot revolves around strange incidents that occur after a 1960s family acquires a Ouija Board to use as a prop for their sham psychic readings.

However, things take a turn when Doris, the younger of the two daughters, uses the board to legitimately communicate with the afterlife. Her newfound psychic powers prove to be too much for Doris, who is easily manipulated by angry spirits still residing in the walls of the family’s home.

When Doris begins acting strangely — she talks in detail about what it feels like to be strangled and writes mysterious journal entries in Polish — the family enlists a local priest to help save their daughter and themselves.

The entire story is told from the perspective of Alice, the family’s matriarch. Alice, played by Elizabeth Reaser, is a single mother trying to get by and raise her two young daughters after the sudden death of her husband a few years prior.

Reaser, along with the rest of the cast, bring impressively deep performances. In fact, it is the actors that separate “Origin of Evil” from scores of other forgettable horror films just like it.

The young actors are especially impressive here, showing skill and maturity well beyond their years.

Lulu Wilson’s standout performance as Doris is particularly captivating to watch. She effortlessly blends in a subtle and off-putting tinge of coldness into every line she delivers.

With this performance, Wilson takes her place among the ranks of the creepiest kids in cinema, next to that kid from “The Omen” and the little blonde girl from “Poltergeist.”

Unfortunately, these performances can’t save “Origin of Evil” from being swallowed up by its shoddy, over-the-top visual effects.

The CGI in the film looks so ridiculous that it immediately kills any sense of suspense or terror. The movie falters particularly in its final act, when the pace picks up and the obnoxiously terrible effects hit full force.

The resulting try-hard-horror is especially sharp because of the film’s more nuanced use of horror at the beginning. The end result leaves audiences torn between being legitimately frightened and slightly amused.

Overall, Ouija’s over reliance on digital effects ruin any immersion the first half worked to create.

So instead of going to the theatres to be scared this Halloween, consider staying at home with some of the lesser-known horror hidden gems The Leader recommends on page 11.