Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso
Written By: Mike Flanagan
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Who would you be without your family? What do you do when things start to go bump in the night, threatening the ones you closest to you? While any sane person would rise up to the occasion and save their family if they had the chance to. In two of his best films, director Mike Flanagan seemingly explores a horror movie ideology about how your own flesh and blood might be the key in getting you killed.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is set in the 60s; something Flanagan doesn’t let us forget as the film begins with the old Universal logo along with the occasional cigarette burn cue mark. In the film, we’re introduced to Alice, played by Elizabeth Reaser, who is not only a recent widow but the mother of two young girls named Doris and Paulina. Alice and her daughters run a business that involves tricking people into believing they’re speaking to the spirits of their loved ones. All is fine and dandy until Alice brings back an Ouija board home to an actual spirit that ends up possessing young Doris. Though there are obvious signs that something is wrong, Alice blatantly ignores them and by the time she eventually sees the spirit for what it is, it’s too late. In the end, Paulina ends up killing both her mother and Doris during her efforts to exorcise the evil spirit.
Oculus concerns an evil entity residing in a mirror. Our main character Kaylie (Karen Gillian) is trying to document the mirror’s evil powers before destroying it in order to exonerate her brother for the murder of their parents. However, as the mirror possessed their father into killing himself and their mother, it possesses Kaylie into accidentally killing her fiance along with her brother into accidentally killing her.Typically, family represents strength, love, and vitality. However, in both of these films, the typical representation of what family stands for is completed rejected and it's because of this that both films end in tragedy. The only people left alive are subjected to living the rest of their days in mental institutions because of their families. However, if we can't trust our loved ones, who can we trust to help us stay alive?
In Hush, a film Flanagan released earlier this year on Netflix, our main character, Maddie, is alone and it's the main reason she ends up alive. Flannan flips the switch by making the only interaction between Maddie and her family over FaceTime. Interestingly enough, it’s her sister who notices something is amiss and Maddie who shrugs off the danger, unlike in Flanagan's previous films where his protagonist is trying to get everyone to understand the danger. Both Paulina and Kaylie are fighting for their families as Kaylie is trying to exonerate her brother by exposing the evil entity and Paulina is trying to exorcise the demon in her sister. Though the fight for their families was long and hard it was all in vain. Paulina ends up institutionalized and Kaylie winds up dead, but Maddie, on the other hand, lives. This is because she had no one to fight for, but herself. Self-preservation is an animal instinct we have in us all and pretty much the strongest we have besides the materal instinct that mother tends to have towards their children. Maddie fought for herself and fought harder than Paulina and Kaylie did simply because they forgot to save themselves.
So, should you run and hide when danger is lurking or do you stand and fight for the ones you love? Does self-preservation come first before family commitment? Maddie didn’t have to worry about anyone else so she put all of her efforts into keeping herself alive and it proved fruitful as she lives at the end of the film. Putting that into perspective after witnessing how Paulina and Kaylie wind up shows that maybe, just maybe, a little selfishness can go a long way.