Despite its familiar tricks, Ouija: The Origin of Evil is a thrilling Halloween treat thanks to an affecting family story, well executed visuals, and great performances.

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

In probably the first time since Hollywood entered the recycling age, a sequel defied expectations by surpassing its predecessor.

Origin of Evil is a prequel to Ouija, a cheap advertising ploy by Hasbro in the form of a B-movie quality horror. So no one was expecting any better from this franchise.

And then it does get better. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a haunted house thriller, exorcism drama, and home invasion horror in one. Unlike the first movie, this prequel gives us characters to care about and terror from an identifiable entity.

The struggles of the family is rooted in realism, which makes their characters relatable. Alice and her children are still dealing with grief while trying to make ends meet. So when Doris turns what is supposed to be a stunt into a real thing, Alice welcomes it as a sign of hope and a way to compensate for their family’s lies.

But as it turns out, they’re not the only ones who are. The movie takes its time to establish its characters and the possession of Alice, which justifies the scare tactics that follows. The movie is also self-aware in playing around horror tropes and giving homage to classic films, which enables it to establish its own identity.

The cast turn in great performances, with Lulu Wilson playing a corrupted innocent and vessel of evil with such a convincing performance that despite the movie’s familiar tricks, it still manages to be horrifying.

The production value helps in creating a sense of ominous atmosphere in a period accurate setting. Unlike the first movie, you can see the effort behind the set design, costume, and cinematography. The movie opens with a title card and end credits scroll as if you’re seeing it through a glass circle of the planchette. The digitally shot film was made to look like it was done with 35mm, so when then that deep focus camera work is used in a scene, it has that retro feel without being a rip off.

Ouija – Origin of Evil is a rare prequel that can stand on its own. However, it still haunted by ghosts of its franchise.

The movie eventually circles back to the first installment but halfheartedly incorporates the Ouija board into the story, devolving into a typical horror tale of vengeful spirits. The origin of evil is confusing as a historical drama is vaguely tied to the supernatural. There’s no clear connections between the build up and the horrors that relentlessly come in towards the end. It throws almost everything to the audience including creepy dolls, demons, dark figures, creepy whispers, gravity defying acrobatics and plenty of jump scares.

In spite of this, the movie still manages to be an effective horror because of a smart script that paints an affecting story about a family who tries to deal with loss, but gains something sinister in return.

My Rating: 7/10

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