I didn’t know a damn thing about Ouija: Origin of Evil going into it. I knew that about 7 years ago that a Ouija movie was in development. I debated with Seth before the movie about whether this was that movie or a sequel/prequel, because I had no memory of the original coming out. Hell, I didn’t even know I was supposed to review this movie until about 10 minutes before showtime when I looked at the review schedule and wondered why the hell TK was assigning me this?
I’m glad he did, because I don’t think anyone expected that not only would Ouija: Origin of Evil be significantly better than the original film (7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but that it’d be the best wide release of the weekend despite competition from Tom Cruise and Jon Hamm/Zack Galifianakis.
Ouija: Origin of Evil comes from director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Occulus) who co-wrote the prequel with Jeff Howard. Set in 1965, it follows a widower, Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson, who is magnificent) who run a fortune-telling service out of their home. They talk to the dead on behalf of others. It’s a scam, but a well-intentioned one: They’re only trying to offer peace and comfort to others suffering from grief.
They eventually decide to incorporate a Ouija board into their routine, which is when the youngest daughter, Doris, discovers that she can actually communicate with the dead. That allows her to talk to her late father, as well as the souls of others who pay them visits. Talking to the dead, of course, has its dangers, and when the soul of a previous homeowner with a dark past enters the story, things take a turn for the wicked.
Here’s what sets Ouija: Origin of Evil apart from its grim PG-13 brethren: It’s fun, and not in a campy way, or even in a so-bad-it’s-good way. The tone through the first two acts is kept relatively light, and there are doses of humor peppered throughout (lethal doses, in a couple of instances). The imagery also manages to be both terrifying and hilarious, in part because the villain is an 8-year-old girl who manages to be both a conventional creepy kid and a subversion of the trope. She acts creepy, but she looks adorable, so even when her eyeballs are blanked out and her mouth is stretched wide open to take in souls, it’s still like, “Awwwwww.” It’s like being murdered by a baby guinea pig.
It’s also a really well made film with the right mix of jump scares, humor, genuinely frightening moments and an usually likable set of characters for a horror movie. It makes for a potent and entertaining movie, and another surefire hit for Jason Blum’s production company.