I am pegging it right now: director Mike Flanagan may be the next Wes Craven/horror saviour. Taking a film series whose first film angered many horror fans all the while earning such a large amount of cash that the sequel was warranted by its first day in theatres. Luckily and to much excitement, it appears that the studio saw the outrage garnered by the admittedly bad first film and brought along one of the most meticulous and invigorating director working today. Proving his prowess in the genre with both Oculus and this years intense Hush, Flanagan takes the tired premise of a young woman possession and injects it with so much attention and detail that it is astounding how great the film is.
With a premise that has been done quite well in the past, Flanagan and collaborator Jeff Howard take time to set up a collection of characters and a setting before relaying any sort of jump scare or supernatural kick. The time taken to create the world aids in presenting the distinct style the film carries.
Seemingly picked out a theatre from the ‘60s, the world feels drenched in the past from subtle references and songs to the bobbing hairstyles of the era adding in an additional layer to the setting, again, all in favour of its characters rather than cheap jump scares.
Let it not be said that the film tries its hardest to show off some truly disturbing images, white eyed little girls whispering could be considered a trope but it has rarely been so effective. Since the beginning of the film is so conservative, I commend the filmmakers for the almost constant barrage of frights pummelled into the final act of the film.
All of this would not be possible without the fantastic acting from the two mostly fresh faces in the film. The first, Annalise Basso as the eldest of the two sisters appears in her second feature with the director and convinces as the main emotional thread winded throughout the film, and she is never less than completely convincing. The second is child actor Lulu Wilson, who has single handedly delivered the most spine chilling performance of the year. Additional praise goes to the rest of the cast, all fleshed out in distinct personalities that bring the film out of its once possible banality.
All of this is sweetened by Flanagan’s old school editing (whose use of cigarette burns to denote reel changes tugs at my love of the film medium) while cinematographer Michael Fimognari uses the darkness and daylight. It is beautiful and quite freaky. As odd as it is to say Ouija: Origin of Evil, it stands as one of the best film experiences of the year and makes me eager to see what Flanagan has in store next.