Ouija: Origin of Evil is the prequel to the 2014 horror flick, Ouija, which is inspired by the legendary board game. The trailer, which you can find here, promises a more polished film than the series’s first installment. It has a slightly higher horror pedigree with Mike Flanagan as the director and Michael Fimognari as the cinematographer, neither of whom were associated with the critically-panned original movie. Flanagan and Fimognari are frequent collaborators. So, let’s examine their work as individuals.
Mike Flanagan is a filmmaker who specializes in character-driven, low-budget horror films. With seven features under his belt, he became most notable for the success of Oculus. Having written and directed most of his films, Flanagan is able to fully visualize each movie from the ground up. He has also edited a majority of his films, making him unique in the fact that he never loses control of his cinematic vision. He has worked with Michael Fimognari on several of his features.
Let’s look at one of the films for which Fimognari was not the cinematographer. Quietly entering the scene, Hush was critically acclaimed for its premise and execution. With a deaf protagonist, Hush has to utilize a variety of tools to help stack the odds that Maddie (Kate Siegel) will be able to survive an attack from a murderous home intruder (John Gallagher Jr.). The best example is the final fight scene which you can watch at your own peril. Flanagan does a fantastic job demonstrating the difficulties of the situation and instilling fear in his audience. At the same time, he crafts a situation where the protagonist isn’t as defenseless as she may seem. His use of framing and adjusting perspective builds tension throughout the film, but in this final scene, it comes to a head. Utilizing lights and adjusting sounds for a shift in viewpoint, Hush is definitely one film worth checking out.
Michael Fimognari has frequently worked on films that make audiences’ pulses race. His reel can be found here and it showcases his keen photographic eye. He does very well moving the spectator’s eye towards what needs to be seen with minimal camera moves, which is especially effective in low budget horror. He’s worked on various genre films and his simple economic style translates well to an array of genres without detracting from story or performance.
One film that slipped under the radar is Jessabelle. In this clip, Jesse (Sarah Snook) experiences a strange dream with voodoo rituals and her deceased mother. Out of film context, the dream is a series of nightmare images that leads to waking up and being haunted by a shadowy figure. Even out of context, the vignettes of voodoo are presented as strange, yet not particularly dangerous. The sequence goes through all of Jesse’s problems, from the car accident that cripples her to the mysterious tapes she’s been finding. The atmosphere is creepy and not stereotypically dreamesque, utilizing things that could not happen to bring a surreal edge to the action on screen. Even once Jesse wakes, her horrors do not end, as the ghost in her room comes closer while she lies paralyzed in fear. Fimognari does not allow Jesse, nor the audience to see behind the curtain.
So what can we expect from Ouija: Origin of Evil? Jump scares, as both director and cinematographer know how to build and break tension. Flanagan and Fimognari utilize the dark corners of the frame to hide secrets from the audience. This isn’t their first take on a supernatural entity with Oculus getting a lot of praise for both, creativity and scares. The story should theoretically be solid with Flanagan in the writer’s chair. The only major concern is that it is the only mainstream horror film during the Halloween season, in a particularly slow year. And it’s a prequel to a movie about a board game. If you’re willing to take a chance, Ouija: Origin of Evil is definitely going to scratch that ghoulish itch.