The success of Ouija: Origin of Evil may suffer from the curse of its bad name. What can you do, though? Universal Pictures failed miserably with its first attempt to create a horror franchise out of the board game with 2014’s Ouija. The new movie is neither a sequel nor a prequel; instead, it’s an attempt to reboot the concept entirely. How do you successfully accomplish that while also severing the connection between it and a really bad movie?
For one thing, you make a good movie, which I’m delightfully surprised to say Ouija: Origin of Evil is. Then you have to turn it over to the marketing department and trust they’ll promote it properly. Time and time again, I’m convinced this is the more difficult task. Since I largely avoid trailers and don’t watch live television, I don’t know how they’ve done with this movie; however, I do think they chose a horrible name for the movie.
One of my favorite horror movies I’ve seen this year is Mike Flanagan’s Hush. He directed Oujia: Origin of Evil, so it would have been a disappointment if he failed in this effort. He also co-wrote it and edited it, so at least the success of the suspense and scare parts of the movie rest squarely on his shoulders. If it was his decision for the story to take place in 1967, then I also credit him for other components of the movie that make it so much fun to watch.
In 1967, the rights to the commercial game, Ouija, had just been picked up by Parker Brothers, which was not then a subsidiary of Hasbro. This was a time when the world was more innocent, and therefore more interesting to corrupt. Mothers jokingly threatened their Catholic daughter’s boyfriends with death if they touched them, and a simple kiss was enough to cause them to swoon. Priests at Catholic schools looked after their students in healthy, not inappropriate, ways.
It’s in this era that we find Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Mr. Zander is dead and the three females struggle to make ends meet by running a fortune telling business out of their home. When Alice buys a Ouija game as an additional prop, their scam turns real as young Doris begins channeling actual spirits in the house.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is not terribly original. There are components from many other horror movies, from The Exorcist to The Conjuring, to name two. However, its PG-13 rating works in its favor for two reasons. First, the audience that will be able to watch the movie because of its rating will probably not be familiar with the other movies from which it borrows. I think they’ll find it more original than it really is.
Second, it’s a relatively bloodless movie. The only gore is a little of the red stuff on a knife. Normally, hardcore fans look down on a PG-13 horror movie. Here, it makes for a great movie to introduce young ones to the genre. I always hear people ask for recommendations for good scary movies that are safe for kids. I say that conditionally, though. It is very scary and the subject matter may be too intense for really young kids.
Adults might not be as adoring of Ouija: Origin of Evil, but I guarantee you could do worse. (Remember that they did worse two years ago.) If this is the big theatrical release for Halloween this year, I’m content. I’d call the movie “harmless.” Mostly, that’s because it’s made for a wide audience, but that’s also because it’s not offensive to serious horror fans. It would not be a waste of time to go see it; in fact, I recommend that you do.