The Best Horror Film of 2016?
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016): In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.
WOW I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. So for those who don't know, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a sequel (or prequel) to a TERRIBLE horror film that came out in 2014 simply called Ouija. That film was a walking embodiment of everything wrong with this genre, and I fully assumed this would just be more lame jump scares because that's so original! I honestly had no plans to see this because of how bad the original was, but I wanted to see a movie on Halloween weekend and it was either this or Inferno, so naturally I choose Ouija over the probably not-great puzzle thriller that gave away its entire plot in the previews. Boy am I glad I made that decision. While this filim is by no means in the relm of something like 2015's legendary It Follows, it is certainly the scariest (and best) horror film of 2016.
So why is it so good? It focuses on being as creepy as possible. There's not a lot of jump scares, (though they are here) and when your film isn't full of that it makes the jump scares that much better. No what really sets this film apart is the cinematography. This film is wonderfully shot, from tense close ups to what filmmakers call "deep focus" wide shots, (where two individuals-one close up and one far away-are both in focus) in addition to your more traditional (and haunting) wide shots. What happens to Doris (masterfully played by child actor Lulu Wilson) in this film is terrifying to watch, and it only gets scarier as the film goes on. I mean look at the shot I used for this review! Creepy, right? Her story without a doubt holds it all together, but there is certainly some strong writing to make you actually kind of care about this family. There was clearly a lot of love and care that went into making this film, which we witness right from the opening credits as we see the traditional Universal Pictures intro that was used in the 1960's. (Appropriate here since the film takes place in that time period) The set design is great, particularly outside the main house, and even the main house is laid out pretty well despite being just your standard "horror movie house" set.
The film isn't perfect, though. My biggest trope against it is that it took about 40 minutes or so to really get into the meat of the film. That's where the best part of this film is also its worst part: yes, there's a lot of character development in the first 40 minutes, but all the scares we see during this opening act are very standard and underwhelming. There was also an attempt to recreate the legendary use of "Tiptoe Through the Tullips" from Insidious towards the end of the film that was creepy, but clearly copying from Insidious. That might not be a criticism because I couldn't help but smile and enjoy myself while it was happening, but I just wanted to point it out. At the end of the day, though, Ouija: Origin of Evil just might be the most suprising film of the year. I had a blast watching this, especially once it picked up, and I quickly realized that I cared about everyone involved thanks to the character development early on. The film is beautifully shot, features great set design and editing, has a great script, and is well acted by Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, and Henry Thomas. (Who, by the way, was the child star of ET and has had quite the career. Check out his IMDB page) If you're into horror films, I would strongly recommend checking this one out. You may not find a better horror film this year.
The Critique: Great cinematography, editing, set design, writing, and acting all come together to produce possibly the best horror film of 2016 and definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year.
The Recommendation: An EASY must-see for all horror fans out there, and even a great one for those who merely flirt with the genre.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great.
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