I MINED the joke depths of using a board game as the inspiration for a horror movie back when the original Ouija came out [“Spirit Bored,” Film, Oct 22, 2014], but fortunately, it’s a rich tapestry. With the sequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil, the stage is now set for a veritable bonanza of BOARD GAME HORROR FILMS. This followup loosely plays off the original—people use ouija board, then die—but sets the action in Los Angeles 1967, so just think of the mid-century possibilities! Tiddlywinks (“You’ll tiddlywink your pants with fright!). Parcheesi (“The confusion of how to play will befuddle and terrify!). Or Mystery Date (“Like most mystery dates, there’s a high likelihood you’re in danger!”). This mine is deep.
While 2014’s Ouija was a forgettable foray that built its flimsy house of spirits on jump scares and teenagers’ casual dropping of such Victorian terms as “planchette,” Origin of Evil is a smarter bit of demonic possession. A single mom (Elizabeth Reaser) struggles to pay the bills with her fortune-telling business until she buys Hasbro’s ouija board game, which provides her with a cottage industry of ghostly proportions (nice marketing!). But thanks to ouija, her youngest daughter, the creepy Doris (Lulu Wilson), starts seeing every dead thing under the sun. Murder and jump scares ensue.
What director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) gets right in Origin of Evil is a near immediate abandoning of the ouija board plot device. Sure, the children’s game brings us a houseful of mean ghosts, but those spirits are the stars, not ouija board’s nondescript surface. We’re spared 1,287 different enactments of spelling out words in favor of watching eerie, possessed Doris terrorize her older sister’s boyfriend before crawling up the wall like a nine-year-old blonde spider. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I like spelling words, but I’d much rather watch some Bad Seed kid be creepy as fuck. And she is. And the rest of the cast (including Henry Thomas as a concerned Catholic priest!) is pretty great in this tidy little horror flick. Now let us pledge to watch all future entries in the series. I’m most excited about the upcoming Trouble (“Beware the slice and dice of the Pop-O-Matic bubble!).