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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Alice Zander and her two girls aren't trying to scam anybody with their fake spiritualist act. OK, maybe they are just a little. I mean they have to make enough with their faux séances and "readings" to survive, right?

But this single mom and her girls have all agreed that they'll only perform their phony hocus pocus if it can really help people find closure. Help them get on with a healthy life.

And the fact is, the Zander girls are actually pretty good at what they do. With the right setup of a few table shakes, a couple of blown-out candles and some spooky shadows, they can help ease someone's grief. And they're always on the lookout to find a believable new bit of occult authenticity to add to the routine.

Like, say, a Ouija board.

That brainstorm is sparked by Alice's oldest daughter, Paulina, after she and some friends play with one. It's an experience that scares one girl half to death. So Alice goes out the next day to pick one up.

With a little work and few magnets, Alice has the board connecting with the "spirit world" pretty quickly. But before they can try it out on a new customer, something totally unexpected happens. Alice's youngest, Doris, starts messing with the board's planchet, and that plastic pointer actually starts meandering around the board on its own … without the magnets' help.

Now, ordinarily, Alice would have been really creeped out by something like this. Especially after young Doris reports that she also heard her dead father whisper in her ear. But the Ouija board actually offers up some details that only Alice's husband could have known. On top of that, Alice's own mother had been a real spiritualist, way back when. Maybe the ability skipped a generation. So maybe, just maybe, Doris is the real thing.

Alice is actually pretty excited now. Not only is Doris happily earning them some good money, but her abilities are helping people like crazy. The self-moving objects and otherworldly voices are so much more effective than their old pretend routines.

The problem is, everything isn't quite hunky dory here. Doris, for instance, has this stabbing pain in the back of her neck. And she has lapses where she blanks out and wakes up having scrawled out pages of writing in some foreign language. And when she looks through the little plastic viewfinder on the Ouija board's planchet, she's seeing these darting shadowy figures.

And not a single one of them looks like her loving dad.

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Positive Elements

Alice loves her daughters. She even offers her life up in exchange for them at one point. But once she foolishly opens the door to a dark spiritual influence, there's little that any "good parenting" or self-sacrificial choice can do to close it again.

Spiritual Content

That dark spirituality is indeed dark. It involves lingering spirits who were part of past murders and quite a lot of torture. If there's one clear message this film sends, it's that trying to commune with the dead is a horrible, dangerous deadly idea.

That fact is supported by a Catholic priest, Father Tom, who is the principal of Paulina and Doris' school. He quotes part of 1 John 4:1 as he tests the spirits behind Doris' new abilities. And he draws upon some other scriptures to give him strength when things turn really grim. However, it appears that neither Scripture nor God has any influence on the evil spirits in this spooky tale.

Early on, young Doris prays … to her dead father rather than God. We also see some of the ghoulish-looking entities that swirl about and ultimately inhabit the young girl. Once possessed by these beings, Doris has the ability to whisper to others and possess them, too—causing one victim to kill himself.

Various objects move by unseen hands throughout the film.

Sexual Content

Alice wears a low-cut dress. Paulina covertly invites a guy she has a crush on into her room, where they kiss.

Violent Content

A teen boy is shown hanging by his neck. A woman is stabbed with a large knife. A man breaks his neck after falling down stone steps. Someone has their lips sewn shut (off camera). A boy shoots himself in the face with a slingshot (off camera). Someone draws Ouija board letters on a stone floor in her own blood.

Characters learn of atrocities performed on innocent victims during World War II. We hear that someone was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Alice threatens a teen to keep his hands off her daughter by pushing her thumb nail into his palm. We find out that the piercing pain that Doris is feeling is actually a black spirit that's latched onto the back of her neck.

Crude or Profane Language

God's name is misused about half a dozen times. We hear a couple of uses each of "b--ch," "a--" and "h---."

Drug and Alcohol Content

People drink wine at dinner. Teens drink alcohol from cups at a small party.

Other Negative Elements

Paulina sneaks out of the house to go to a friend's house, and later she sneaks a guy into her room.

Conclusion

I have to admit, the first few scenes of Ouija: Origin of Evil momentarily promised a story that seemed like it might be more compelling than anything the original Ouija pic managed to conjure up. But as soon as this fright flick's occult mayhem gets predictably unleashed, it quickly falls back on all that evil-spirit-possession, scream-and-die blech that one might expect from this tired genre.

Hollywood keeps pumping out these kinds of movies because we humans can't help but sense—and in many ways, be drawn to—the spiritual things around us. But even for those who might dismiss the idea of faith in a loving God, I suspect that somewhere deep down even those folks instinctively know that dabbling in dark spirituality is a taboo thing.

Since most of the characters who dabble with shadowy spiritual realms usually endure torment and die in horrible ways, you could say that these movies are really cautionary tales. You know, a "connect with the dead and you'll suffer" sort of message.

Alas, that's not what many viewers will walk away with here. Instead they'll get a charge from the chill on screen and wonder if all that ghostly stuff might be something to "play with" in the midst of their mundane lives. And since Hasbro, the contemporary Ouija Board company, originally signed a big deal with Universal to make these creepy pics in the first place, that's obviously what they're hoping will happen, too.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Genre

Horror

Author

Cast

Elizabeth Reaser as Alice Zander; Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander; Annalise Basso as Paulina Zander; Henry Thomas as Father Tom; Parker Mack as Mikey

Director

Mike Flanagan ( Oculus)

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 21, 2016

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

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