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Brent Northup

Ouija: Origin of Evil

At the Cinemark

(PG-13)

Grade: B-

Remember Elliott, the young boy who befriended an extra-terrestrial in “E.T.”?

Well, Henry Thomas, who was 11 when he played Elliott, has grown up and is now 45.

Thomas gets to know yet another alien, in “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” This time, Thomas plays a priest who encounters a young girl who is channeling something which just might be demonic.

When Doris calls home, the ghost who answers isn’t nearly as cute or friendly as in Spielberg’s classic.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” begins flawlessly, in a manner that hints that first-rate horror film may be unfolding on the screen. We settle back, enjoying the ride up the roller coaster, knowing the thrilling descent might spill our Dr. Pepper. Not only that, but our minds are intrigued.

We meet Alice, a widow, and her two daughters, about 15 and 9. They all grieve their lost husband and father.

Mom is trying to pay the bills by working as a fortune-telling “medium” who brings people in touch with the dead, through various deceptive tricks.

Imagine mom’s surprise when her youngest daughter starts exhibiting some of the powers mom only pretended to possess. The catalyst: a Ouija board.

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Watching young Doris begin to connect with forces beyond herself is unsettling, but totally captivating.

Both Act I and Act II of “Ouija” are deliciously creepy.

Alas, when it comes time to unravel the mysteries inside the head of young Doris, the film itself descends into various horror clichés including an ugly creature, some skulls and a secret room in the basement.

The ending has a surprise or two but, still: Yawns after such a promising start!

Horror films often self-destruct by offering mundane explanations of ethereal questions. What might start out as theology or psychology often deteriorates into simple exercises in the manufacture of scary scenes.

Put another way, when fear becomes physically manifest -- as a critter, a ghost or a snake -- all the infinite possibilities devolve into a one disappointing quite finite object.

Nevertheless, “Ouija” remains a well-crafted horror film with respectable performances by the three leads. The opening hour alone might be enough to justify the ticket, if you’re one who enjoys sliding down in your seat and wondering what’s next.

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