Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The new episode of the Black Sheep video series looks at director Mike Flanagan’s Ouija prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil

The Ouija: Origin of Evil episode of The Black Sheep was Written and Narrated by Andrew Hatfield, Edited by Brandon Nally, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

The Ouija board, and that’s weejee board not weeja board with all due respect to Joe Bob Briggs, has been a constant source of fascination since it’s inception in 1890. Ghostly movements and other supernatural appearances went back further than that and there were crude inceptions before 1890 but that’s when the board as we know it came about. It was commercialized sometime later and of course; it’s showed up as a device in horror movies ever since. The Witchboard series that started in 1986 is probably the most popular series that features the spirit communicator but another, more straightforward series called Ouija is also out there. While the first one that came out in 2014 is a dud in every sense of the word, the sequel is truly something special. Brought to us by Mike Flanagan in a preview of what was to come, Quija 2: Origin of Evil (watch it HERE) deserves better than to be ignored and thought of as just a sequel to a middling mid-2010s horror.

The first movie came out courtesy of the three headed monster of Blumhouse, Platinum Dunes, and Universal Studios. Platinum Dunes was one of those horror studios like Lions Gate and later Blumhouse and Universal is the progenitor to modern horror as we know it. It was written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White with the directing duties falling to White. They were a team who co-wrote things like the 2003 Boogeyman, Nic Cage vehicle Knowing, and The Possession. They also co-wrote Ouija and to date, this is White’s only directing gig. It stars Olivia Cooke before she became a mega star and a few other actors that don’t really jump out, except Lin Shaye because a certain number of horror movies released each year are contractually obligated to have her in them. Those are the rules. It follows a group of people who mess with a Ouija board and strange things start to happen involving ghosts, possession, and murder. It’s about as milk toast as you can get and while audience and critical scores weren’t stellar, the damn thing made 104 million on it’s 8 million dollar budget. You know what that means.

Ouija: Origin of Evil The Black Sheep

Two years later those same studios in conjunction with Hasbro would release a prequel to Ouija titled Ouija: Origin of Evil. This time around it would be written and directed by a little-known creator named Mike Flanagan. 2016 was a big year for Flanagan and it’s the year he really started to build his brand. In addition to the prequel that is today’s subject, he also released the home invasion thriller with a unique twist Hush and the non-horror, but it gets lumped in the horror category Before I Wake. Hush is a great time and Before I Wake is an interesting take on grief and spirituality. Before that he had the Karen Gillan led mirror horror Oculus and his indie darling Absentia. If you haven’t seen Absentia, go watch it. It’s a huge reason he was noticed and handed the reigns to the next 4 movies which steam rolled into his current success.

Flanagan writes, and edits for that matter, most of his stuff but also had a co-writer on Ouija in the form of Jeff Howard. To be fair, Howard had also helped co-write Oculus and Before I Wake and would go on to help write Gerald’s Game and episodes of both Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. More recently, he helped write and executive produce the short lived live action Resident Evil TV series for Netflix. The movie has a great cast too with future Flanagan regulars Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Lulu Wilson, and his wife and frequent collaborator Kate Siegel. No, not that one. It also stars Annalise Basso and has appearances from Doug Jones and Lin Shaye. Again, the rules.

The movie opens with telling us that we are in Los Angeles in the late 60s. the set up isn’t re-inventing the wheel by any means. A widow and her two daughters struggle to pay bills and set up a medium service to help grieving clients get closure from the dead. It’s a scam of course but these people don’t seem bad. You have the mom doing whatever it takes to provide for her kids, the youngest, innocent daughter that doesn’t fully understand what they are doing, and the older, jaded daughter who is a bit rebellious. Elizabeth Reiser plays the mom and she’s great here just like she’s great in Haunting of Hill House. Outside of the Flanagan film repertoire, she was a big part of the Twilight universe, Nightmare Cinema, and was a featured player on shows like Saved, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Good Wife. The younger daughter is played by Lulu Wilson who is no stranger to horror. In addition to showing up in Hill House and upcoming Flanagan project The Fall of the House of Usher (see a running theme here?), she was in Deliver Us From Evil, Annabelle: Creation, and Becky. Finally, the older daughter is played by Analise Basso. Basso had already showed up in Oculus as the younger version of Gillan’s character and was also in the Snowpiercer TV Series.

Mom Alice is trying to figure out the bills while youngest Doris prays before bed. Lina sneaks out to drink with her other underage friends and they mess with a Ouija board before getting caught and sent home. The next day a boy comes to pick up Lina and Alice messes with him in hilarious fashion. All of this just flows great with Flanagan’s sharp writing we have come to expect. If you watch this movie before his other work, you may not pick up on all of his trademarks but if you see this after his other work it feels like a lost film of his. Alice picks up a Ouija board from the store to add to their service and we are introduced to Father Tom, who is a good dude and is trying to look out for the family. He is played by Henry Thomas who is of course in 8 total Flanagan projects. To other generations of viewers though he will always be Elliot from E.T. or even Davey from Cloak and Dagger. He doesn’t have the longest resume but he’s in some really great stuff.

Father Tom’s wife passed away and Doris wants the family to get to know him better. The family starts messing with the board and weird things start happening around the house including Doris getting a new friend that even helps her with her homework. Alice and Lina worry that Doris doesn’t understand what happened to their dad but then she brings out a ton of money she was told was inside the basement walls. While they think they are being contacted by their late husband/father, something fully possesses Doris and she ends up writing a bunch of pages in Polish, which she absolutely doesn’t know. The possession scene is where the movie will fully get your buy in. It’s one of the best examples of how effective a PG-13 movie can be and it uses every bit of that rating.

Ouija: Origin of Evil The Black Sheep

The movie takes an unexpected turn here and we find out that an evil doctor was torturing and experimenting on prisoners in the basement of the house and when Doris looks through the eyehole of the Ouija board controller, she sees a horrible creature all in black with piercing yellow eyes. He tilts her back and takes complete control of her. She messes with kids at school who try to hurt her, completely changes her demeanor around people, and eventually kills the bot that her older sister is seeing. Father Tom and Alice go on a date and later, Tom comes over to the house to help out any way he can with how Doris is behaving. He figures out that Doris is just reading his mind during a session to get his buy in. He sits down with Alice and Lina to explain what was going on and breaks down how the trickery happened. He doesn’t think she is a fraud though; he is afraid that she is channeling something truly dangerous.

Tom comes back to the family later and explains that all the writing that Doris had done was really by a polish soldier named Marcus who describes his death and the death of other people in gruesome ways. The spirits have been watching them the entire time, even now, and they are angry. Tom has been given approval for an exorcism but it’s too late, they are all stuck inside the house with whatever is stuck inside Doris. They head down to the basement to confront Doris, but she and it are ready. The lights go out and when they strike a match, they find all the bones of the victims buried in the wall. They burn the board but hear Doris calling for help through a vent. Father Tom goes in to investigate and comes out into a room none of them knew existed.

It’s the torture room and it still has all of the tools of pain. Doris, possessed by more than one evil spirit now, rushes at Tom and takes him over too. He crawls out of the vent and goes after Alice and Lina but is able to break the spell just in time for them to escape. Of course, this gives Doris’s time to push him down the stairs to his death via a broken neck. The movie has another great special effects scene where all the darkened spirits are controlling Lina in an attempt to shut out the spirits. Unfortunately, this kills Doris, but she is safe and reunited with her father. Lina is now possessed and kills her mother when she is already reeling from killing her younger sister. She ends up in a mental hospital and the film ends with her creating her own Ouija board on the floor using her own blood and a lens from glasses. In a post credits time jump, an older Lina is visited by her niece, and we get the tie in to the previous, far more inferior film.

Ouija: Origin of Evil is not only an underrated horror film but one of the best ways to make a sequel, or prequel in this case, of a forgettable film. It qualifies as a best horror movie you never saw but is really a black sheep. It’s a black sheep of Flanagan’s filmography, a black sheep of the possession genre, the black sheep of the Ouija movies, and a black sheep of all those mid-2010s horror movies that kind of run together. It’s available on Netflix and has been for sometime but even there it gets lost in the weeds of all the other movies that the streaming service would rather push. Take the time to check it out. It delivers on the scares, acting, setting, themes, and it isn’t afraid to get a little mean with its characters. You don’t need a Ouija board to decide on watching this gem.

A couple of the previous episodes of The Black Sheep can be seen below. To see more, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.