Tag Archives: Mike Flanagan

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Quick, think of one horror sequel that’s better than the original. I bet you can’t.

Well, now you can. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a damn miracle. While the first one was an absolute travesty to cinema, earning a spot on my “10 Worst Movies of 2014“, the sequel is actually a pretty solid little horror movie with some wit and some scares.

I totally forgot about the plot of the original, so it came as a surprise to me that Origin of Evil is actually a prequel of sorts (like the title wasn’t a subtle hint). Set in 1965, it’s about a widow (Elizabeth Reaser) who stages seances at her house with her two girls (Lulu Wilson and Annalise Basso). After incorporating a Ouija board into their seances, it later turns out that the younger daughter can contact the dead, and presumably their dead father.

But of course, spirits can be conniving, and soon the family finds itself battling a demonic presence in their house. As with all supernatural films, a priest (Henry Thomas — yes, Elliott from ET!) gets involved before things spiral out of control in a climatic finish.

Perhaps it’s because Ouija has set the bar so low that I enjoyed Origin of Evil this much. I liked the 60s setting, which looked nostalgic and felt authentic. Director Mike Flanagan, who has done some very solid horror work in the past like Hush and Oculus infuses the production with a sense of class and confidence, with none of the  silly “here we go” vibe of its predecessor. Rather than relying solely on jump scares, the film adopts an effective blend of atmosphere through creepy moments and character interactions. It’s also great that the characters mostly act like normal human beings rather than typical sceptics who won’t believe what’s happening right before their eyes.

Elizabeth Reaser (you may remember her as the mother vampire in The Twilight Saga) and young Lulu Wilson both deliver strong performances that are significantly better than anything you’ll see in the original film (even though Olivia Cooke is very talented). It’s amazing how much scarier a horror movie is when the acting is actually believable.

As stereotypical of such horror movies, however, Origin of Evil loses the plot in its third act and gets pretty ridiculous, though I’ve realised since that this was because it had to match the storyline of the original film. That said, the movie is already so much better than I ever thought it could be. Even though it’s not a top tier commercial horror flick like say The Conjuring, I would say Origin of Evil is good enough to land firmly in that second tier occupied by movies like Insidious).

3.5 stars out of 5

Hush (2016)

Hush_2016_poster

Hush is half a great home invasion/slasher thriller with a nice twist. The other half? Not so much.

Co-written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who previously found success with the better-than-expected Oculus back in 2013, Hush tells the story of Maddie (Katie Siegel, who co-wrote the script), a writer who lost her hearing and speech following a bout of illness in her youth. She’s published her first book and lives alone in a secluded area trying to finish off her second and to forget about a former boyfriend. One night, a mysterious masked assailant (John Gallagher Jr) appears at her house, intent on terrifying the poor young woman before killing her.

It’s a simple premise without much of a need for any explanation, but the deaf and mute protagonist certainly does add an interesting wrinkle to the well-trodden genre. Not being able to hear danger when it’s right behind you, and of course, not being able to scream, does create a sense of terror audiences aren’t as used to seeing. It makes us realise just how vulnerable we become when we can’t hear and can’t speak — something as simple as calling the police becomes a challenge, and you immediately become at a disadvantage to whoever is trying to hunt you down. I like how Flanagan would occasionally switch to Maddie’s point of view — well, kind of — so that the sound is heavily muted, providing a nice contrast to the hysteria of the fight for survival.

For at least the first half of the movie, probably even two-thirds, Hush is an effective thriller thanks to the premise and some skillful execution from Flanagan. Gallagher Jr is fantastic as the creepy antagonist, quite a revelation given that he plays completely different characters in the only two other things I’ve seen him in — The Newsroom (on TV) and more recently, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Unfortunately, at some point in the second half of the film, the pace and tension begins to lag, and Flanagan begins resorting to my pet hate for such thrillers — relying on the stupidity of the characters to come up with ways to create more tension and prolong the running time (the film’s only 81 minutes, by the way). The thing is, Maddie actually seemed like quite an intelligent person up until that point, but then suddenly turns into a moron who gives up about a dozen chances to escape and kill the assailant, who also suddenly becomes dim-witted so as to match her. On top of that, the film begins to toss in a bunch of cheap tricks before limping to a predictable and nonsensical climax.

It’s a real shame, because you tend to remember movies like this for the bad taste it leaves in your mouth rather than all the good that came before it. By the time the credits started rolling, I had gone from really enjoying Hush to rather disliking it. Writing this review, however, as put things in a bit more perspective, and the positives of the movie have risen back to the surface. The film does start off well and has some nice moments and effective atmosphere, and because of that it still has more going for it than the majority of movies in the genre.

3 stars out of 5