2014’s Ouija was widely considered one of the worst movies of that year, earning a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes and being instantly forgotten a few weeks after release. However, thanks to the Blumhouse’s managing of budgets, it was a decent sized hit and earned a prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil. In a similar fashion to the evolution of The Purge to Purge: Anarchy, Origin of Evil is the movie we should have gotten the first time. (Note: I haven’t seen Ouija but according to Chris, I didn’t miss much and I’ve read up on the connections between the two movies)
Origin of Evil takes place in the 60’s in the same house as the first film, which is the home of the Zander family, who operate a fake seance business in their parlor. Not doing as well as they used to, Alice (Elisabeth Reaser) buys a Ouija board to spice up their act but it has a strange effect on her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson), who seems to be able to genuinely communicate with spirits using the toy, including Alice’s dead husband Roger. Older daughter Lina (Annalise Basso) grows worried that something evil is happening to Doris and enlists the help of the principal of her and Doris’ Catholic school, Father Tom (Henry Thomas). Compared to what I’ve seen of the first movie, the acting in Origin of Evil is basically night and day. Pretty much everyone is great and Lulu Wilson stands out as being simultaneously adorable and horrifying, like when she brightly describes what it’s like to die of strangulation to Lina’s would be boyfriend Mikey (Parker Mack). Elisabeth Reaser is excellent as well and does a great job of selling the quiet desperation of wanting to continue “helping” people with her act while having to face the reality that it isn’t paying the bills and it’s easy to see why she later embraces Doris’ “gift” to save both the house and communicate with her husband.
Ouija was directed by first time director Stiles White, who besides that is best known for working on the screenplay for the insane Nicolas Cage movie Knowing. Origin of Evil actually has a director with excellent horror chops in Mike Flanagan, who has previously directed Hush, Before I Wake and the amazing Oculus and he does a great job here as well. There’s some genuinely creepy moments, like Doris’ main strategy of latching onto people and whispering Polish into their ears to possess them and there’s lots of shots where she’s just in the background looking creepy. The actual “origin” to the evil in the Zander house is also pretty interesting and gives an actual compelling reason for the demons or ghosts to be pissed. The 60’s setting, although kind of stealing from The Conjuring franchise, helps make Origin of Evil much more compelling than it’s predecessor’s cast of annoying millenials.
If you’ve never seen Ouija, Origin of Evil stands alone as a pretty fantastic horror movie and if you did see the first and were turned off, don’t let the sequel slip past, as it’s seems to be an improvement on basically every level. It’s also the only horror movie in theaters for Halloween this year, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you want to get some scares at the box office for the holiday.