A few years ago, when Warner Brothers first announced The Lego Movie (a big screen adaptation of the popular toy line) the general reaction was mixed at best. Previous attempts at Lego films (direct to DVD movies, etc.) had been nothing more than extended toy commercials pretending to have a plot, and the toys themselves had no obvious story for a film to be based on. They’re just toys. When the film was finally released in 2014, audiences collectively gasped a happy gasp. Our rock-bottom expectations were proven wildly wrong by the truly fantastic film that The Lego Movie turned out to be. Now, miracle of miracles, toy-based-film history is repeating itself with Ouija: Origin of Evil. It is not just infinitely better than its predecessor, 2014’s soul-crushingly bad “scary” movie Ouija. No, in fact Origin of Evil is easily one of the best horror films of the year.
The 60’s set prequel tells the story of the Zander family, a recently widowed mother and her two daughters. Together, they run a phony fortune teller business out of their house. After Alice, the mother and fake psychic, brings home a Ouija board to incorporate into their act, the family discovers that Doris, the youngest child (played brilliantly by newcomer Lulu Wilson) has a genuine gift for communicating with lost spirits. Believing the voice talking to her is the ghost of her late father, Doris opens herself up to the spirits and is possessed. What follows is a tight, exciting, and genuinely frightening supernatural horror movie.
Ouija: Origin of Evil contains some of the most honestly terrifying moments I’ve seen in a horror film in a very long time. It delivers on every level of scare you could want. There are some truly shocking and disturbing visuals in this movie, in addition to some incredibly well-paced moments of suspense and actually justified jump-scares. So often in horror movies (particularly PG-13 ones like this) a jump-scare is lazily dropped in for an easy reaction. Those types of scenes are only surprising in the moment. There’s no actual scare to it, and they wind up killing whatever suspense was just set up. The jump-scares in Origin of Evil aren’t like this in the slightest, as the surprise that pops up suddenly is almost always something genuinely frightening which lingers for a few moments after its reveal to prolong the scare. It makes such a refreshingly terrifying use of typical “spooky” moments like throughout its runtime.
Of course, any discussion about the film’s horror quality has to bring us to Lulu Wilson’s performance as the demon-possessed little girl. This kid has such a strong grasp on what makes this setup scary, and delivers every line for maximum impact. Doris will go down as one of the best creepy-little-kids to ever scare the crap out of us in a horror movie.
Brilliantly directed by up-and-coming horror mastermind Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) the film takes full advantage of every opportunity it has. It cleverly nods to the rich history of possessed-child horror that came before it, with many homages to movies like The Exorcist and The Omen. It also makes fantastic use of its 1960’s setting throughout. The attention to detail in the costumes and backgrounds is impeccable. Furthering the authenticity, the actual movie itself is designed to look as if it was made in the time. The title cards and visual style fit the period perfectly, and subtle winks at the look of 60’s era film reels are used to enhance the effect of the scares when the story picks up steam. The filmmaking in this movie is off the charts incredible.
It’s also pretty easy to fully enjoy this movie. I saw the film with a fairly diverse audience, and the young kids sitting next to me seemed to be having just as much fun with the movie as I was. The throw-back references to 60’s horror films may have gone over their heads, but the kind of terror that the movie goes for is universal, and would play well to anyone who enjoys scary movies overall.
Origin of Evil does have a few flaws. It relies on a handful of genre tropes, and it’s probably a bit too long (it runs close to two hours.) As a prequel to Ouija, though, this film is clearly a massive step up. You don’t need to have seen the original to enjoy Origin of Evil, but if you have, you’ll probably appreciate how well this movie handles its central concept compared to its predecessor. The original was a toy commercial and a teen-slasher. This new prequel is an intense, supernatural, and (perhaps most important) fun scary movie that pulls out all the stops. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a true horror highlight.