'Ouija: Origin of Evil' offers nothing new, but executes horror incredibly well
October 26, 2016
I recently read the 1971 horror classic “The Exorcist” and was absolutely riveted and horrified by its story and atmosphere. It scratched a certain itch that I have for quality horror, horror that doesn’t give meaningless gore or countless jump scares, but treats us to something that digs into the core of our human psyche.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” does a spectacular job of scratching that same itch and has its foundation firmly planted in the roots that “The Exorcist” dug decades ago.
This film is a prequel to “Ouija” (2014), which I didn’t see but have read about and heard that it was pretty terrible. If you saw it and didn’t enjoy it, or didn't see it at all like me, I can assure you “Ouija: Origin of Evil” really has no significance in regards to the original “Ouija” movie. The only real connection is that both movies take place in the same house but in different time periods.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” revolves around a widowed mother and her two daughters as they operate a seance scam business out of their home. The mother decides to purchase a Ouija board to further add to the seance act. There are three rules that the board comes with: Don’t play alone, don’t play in a graveyard and always say goodbye.
It doesn’t take long at all for the youngest daughter Doris to take interest in the board and begin to use it at night. This incites the dark forces that are hidden in the home’s sinister past to manifest into Doris and begin wreaking havoc on the family.
There are many parallels to be drawn between this movie’s story and “The Exorcist.” At one point I was about ready to call it a carbon copy (if you’ve read the book or seen the movie adaptation, you’ll see it) but at a certain point the story takes a sharp left into its own original plot and does its best to make the subject of demonic possession its own. It takes a little push from its inspiration but then is able to progress forward into a more original story that does a great job wrapping itself up in the final act.
The scares in this movie aren't solely based around making you jump. Of course they do, but you are given ample warning with a noticeable shift in music or a slow camera pan. Each scare instead comes from what you are actually seeing rather than what you are anticipating. The sight of some of the contorted faces and rolled back eyes will be in my memory for a long time.
There are a lot of scares that come from things happening in the background: A figure veering out of frame, a face mocking a character over their shoulder or glowing eyes standing in the darkness. Some of these you only see for a brief second before the scene cuts away, making you wonder if you actually did see something.
Effects in the movie are a little jarring upon first viewing. In other words, they're honestly a bit odd to look at. Then again, how would some of the ghouls or possessions actually look? It’s really the use of these effects that makes them work because they're not overused. Doris isn’t white eyed and evil looking the entire time; instead, her face changes when it needs to, usually when something terrible is about to happen.
Character-wise, everyone in the film has their own distinct personalities and roles. Alice, the mother of the family has recently lost her husband and is working to support her two daughters. The oldest daughter Lina is a high school student who becomes the character to take charge of the situation as she begins to see the changes her younger sister Doris undergoes following her use of the Ouija board. The young actress that plays Doris (Lulu Wilson) does a phenomenal job of ramping up the creepy factor and embodying a sinister evil even when her appearance is normal. Even the smaller characters like the priest or Lina’s boyfriend end up serving their own roles and are acted really well.
The mid '60s setting that the movie is based in also adds a really great flavor to the setting and story. Something about having a movie, especially a horror movie, take place in that time period just adds something special. “The Conjuring” (2013) made great use of its time period and this film does the same.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” is a movie that I think will be divisive. On one hand, it is a well-paced horror film that uses characters and events to affect the audience on a deep level. It builds up to its scares rather than throwing them in your face all at once. On the other hand, some people might think the first act to be a little slow and the effects to be odd or even cheesy looking.
Either way, it is a great horror movie to see this Halloween season and I will definitely be going back to see it again in theaters.