Smartly marketed as not necessarily having a connection to the 2014 movie Ouija, 2016’s Ouija: Origin of Evil is a surprisingly not bad little horror film. It’s all the more of a surprise considering the poor reputation of the original. It’s not uncommon for movie studios to churn out poorly made low budget horror in order to make a fast buck, but it’s unheard of for one of these films to be followed up by a sequel that’s actually any good. This may be the only occasion I can think of where a studio churned out a cheap horror movie that was not well liked by fans or critics, was obviously cranked out to make a quick buck, yet somehow managed to be followed up by a sincere effort at making a frightening and scary sequel.
To be clear, Origin of Evil is a direct prequel to the 2014 movie Ouija. In fact, there is a post-credit sequence at the very end that directly ties one of the characters to the 2014 movie. However, the new movie has a different director. Whereas the first film was the directorial debut of Stiles White, this movie was made by Mike Flanagan who also made the 2013 movie Oculus (which starred genre faves Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff). I thought Oculus was a film with a lot of style and a lot of promise that managed to lose its focus and never quite delivered on the scares. Origin of Evil, by contrast, seems like the maturation of an artist growing in his craft. Whereas I didn’t find anything in Oculus to be much scarier than what I might expect to find in an episode of X-Files or Fringe, Ouija: Origin of Evil seems to have studied the jump scares of recent thrillers such as The Conjuring or Insidious and has learned to incorporate some of those techniques for creating some genuinely freaky moments. While I don’t think Flanagan has quite reached the level of James Wan, when it comes to creating haunting imagery, I do think he’s taken a significant step in the right direction.
The story is set in the 1960s and centers around widowed mother Alice Zander (played by Elizabeth Reaser) who has taken to performing fraudulent seances in order to support herself and her two daughters, Doris and Lina (played by Lulu Wilson and Annalise Basso). Unfortunately, her purchase of a Ouija board, to use in fake seances, opens the doorway to real demonic entities that inhabit her house and now have a pathway to her and her children. As the story progresses we learn of a dark secret hidden in her house walls, that has been waiting for a conduit, such as a Ouija board, to allow it to strike.
Overall, it’s a fun Halloween movie that I would recommend for those looking to get into the holiday spirit. As a horror film it certainly has its flaws. It tends to show too much at times, detracting from the overall impact of what could be creepier scares. It also has an end sequence that meanders and would have been better if it were skipped all together. All in all, though, it’s well acted, well executed, and makes for a pretty decent supernatural thriller.
Rating: 3.5 stars
In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by the merciless spirit, this small family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson and Henry Thomas
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard
Based on the Hasbro Game: “Ouija”