• by Wes Singleton

Quija: Origin of Evil, C

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes

There are some things you just shouldn't play with, and a Ouija board is one of them. The derivative new horror film "Ouija: Origin of Evil" is a sequel to the 2014 low-budget hit "Ouija" that tells the origin story of one that film's characters. There are a few good occasional jumps and overall it's an improvement on the first film by telling an actual story, even if incoherent plotting and predictability tend to get in its way.

In 1967 Los Angeles, widowed mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) unwittingly invites authentic evil into her home by adding a new stunt to bolster her séance scam business. When the merciless spirit overtakes her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson), the small family, including older daughter Lina (Annalise Basso), must confront unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

Directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan, who's responsible for horror films such as "Before I Wake" and "Oculus" and co-produced by Michael Bay and Jason Blum for Blumhouse Productions, the unmemorable effort "Ouija: Origin of Evil" is Blumhouse's next low-budget franchise, and like some of their other franchise efforts, including "Insidious" and "The Purge," lacks freshness or originality. The set-up is too obvious, with a cookie-cutter feel to it, given that many of these films involve evil attaching itself to a child, which happens early on in this film too.

The first act of the film, as it explores Reaser's widowed mother and the girls making a living doing fake seances, is the most intriguing and fun (watch for the director's real wife, Kate Siegel, and "Lost's" Sam Anderson in a humorous, brief sequence), then it works into a set of flimsy jumps and scares as characters are thrown around or have their mouth's sewn shut. The lovely Reaser, seen most recently in "Hello, My Name is Doris," is an appealing lead, and she's well-paired with Henry Thomas as a priest - yes that Henry Thomas, the grown-up Elliott from "E.T.-The Extra Terrestrial," but this handsome pair can't overcome the script's contrivances.

"Origin of Evil's" unsurprising climax and cheesy ending in a psych ward only sets up more of these, and if you stay over for the end credits, you'll see a familiar face: character actress Lin Shaye of "Insidious" and the first "Ouija" as the older version of one of the characters. The forgettable "Ouija: Origin of Evil," as mentioned earlier, is an improvement on the first film, but that isn't really saying much. Much like a real Ouija board, I'd avoid if at all possible.