Looking Back at 2010s Films: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

15 Oct

ouija-origin-of-evil

By Tanner Smith

How did this happen? How did a prequel to a subpar horror film turn out to be so good? It’s as if the first “Halloween” movie to be released was “The Curse of Michael Myers” (the sixth, and arguably worst, of the franchise) and then it was followed up by John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”

That’s how impressive “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is.

This is the prequel to 2014’s “Ouija,” which was about a group of teens who play a Ouija board game to communicate with spirits, and of course, evil demonic forces take hold of their lives and slowly but surely kill them off. “Ouija” was overwhelmingly panned by critics, calling slow and nonsensical.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil,” its follow-up, was given the opposite reaction, with highly positive reviews from critics who noticed the significant amount of improvement over its predecessor.

Here’s how I think it happened. Director/co-writer Mike Flanagan (who had already impressed me with quality horror films such as “Oculus” and especially “Hush”) was focused on making a good movie as well as compromising with the studio system. What did the executives want to see?

They wanted to see kids playing the board game, like in the original film. Fair enough–so, Flanagan wrote in a scene in which one of the leads, a teenage girl, plays with her friends and introduces the audience to the rules of the game.

They wanted a jump-scare early into the proceedings. Ugh, fine–but Flanagan, who hates fakeout jump-scares as much as I do, used it for comedic effect.

And he had to tie up all loose ends from the original. How do you do that, when it seemed the ending twist of the original “Ouija” didn’t seem to make sense? Well…Flanagan found a way to fix that too.

And surely there were more studio notes like that, but Flanagan chose not to fight against them but to use them as a benefit. You know what? Freaking KUDOS to this guy!

So, now that Flanagan used the studio notes, what was he going to give us in “Ouija: Origin of Evil?” Story! Characters! Atmosphere! Caring! He thought of giving us all of that before throwing in the terror! By God, it’s A MOVIE!

Thus, what started as a deplorable work-for-hire turned into one of the most surprisingly good horror films of the decade.

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