When it comes to adapting toys and games to film, Hasbro is second to none. They own "Transformers", "G.I. Joe", "Battleship" the television show "Jem" and "My Little Pony" and will bow a Stretch Armstrong film product in 2017.


For over-the-top CGI spcial effects and things that go boom, Hasbro turned the development of the "Transformer" series over to Michael Bay. But for low budget, cost effect scares, they turned to Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions for "Ouija." The first entry in 2014 flipped a $5 million investment into a $103 Million global return. Keep in mind that return was on a mediocre film.


This time, the production budget was $9 million so the production shifted from the first time director Stiles White ("Ouija") to experienced director Mike Flanagan ("Oculus," "Hush," "Absentia") and an origins story dating back to the 1960s when it was still sold under the William Fuld name.

Ironically, that little tidbit of trivia is what makes this sequel superior to the original. Flanagan painstakingly researched the time frame which included the time prior to the Fuld estate selling the game to Parker Brothers (who was subsequently bought out by Hasbro). Most noticeable are the period automobiles which included the then popular Rambler and Ford Falcon.


The story revolves around Doris Zander (Lulu Wilson), the little girl depicted with a stitched mouth in the original film. Her mother Alice ((Elizabeth Reaser) is having a tough time making ends meet and stages psychic readings to earn money. Doris, the youngest daughter and her older sister Paulina (Annalise Basso) assist by performing noise stunts - blowing out candles and making knocking noises.


Paulina discovers a new board game that is quite popular - Ouija - and suggests to her mother that it would make a great additional prop for their scam. The mom agrees and gets one. Of course they immediately break all the rules concerning not playing alone, not using in a graveyard and always saying goodbye at the end. As a consequence, the mother allows a demonic entity into the house that quickly occupies Doris. Because demons usually infest children first.


To keep the intrigue high, a priest (Henry Thomas) and boyfriend (Parker Mack) are introduced as expendable characters - you always know exactly who the expendables are. The story progresses with everyone constantly doing the wrong thing until it is too late to correct any of it. With perfectly timed bumps, glances, a mysterious motions Flanagan creates a creepy story that provides just enough tingle.


Bloodless to maintain the PG-13 rating, the film nevertheless managed to induce jumps and screams from half of the audience; especially the young lady sitting next to

me. Shadows and sounds are the tools of fright, with a coherent narrative and clean photography... all with the low, low production cost of only $9 million; nothing more.


"Ouija: Origin of Evil" is a sequel that is arguably better than the original. Director Mike Flanagan and Blumhouse Productions delivers plenty of "BOO!" for the buck in time for the fright season.   -- GEOFF BURTON