Film Focus: Frightening Films For Halloween


“Quija: Origin of Evil” is a prequel to 2014’s “Ouija” (PHOTO COURTESY OF JONATHAN C. AGUIRRE/ FLICKR)


It’s the Halloween season, which means that it is the perfect time of year to see a horror movie. Whether sitting at home on the couch or heading out to the big screen, here are two options built to scare anyone.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

When the first “Ouija” came out in 2014, audiences were very disappointed. It took the interesting concept of a haunted Ouija board and turned it into a “Final Destination”-like movie about seeing how to most extravagantly kill the teenage victims. When a second was announced, fans were skeptical to say the least. However, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” far surpasses the previous film, retaining both the inherent horror of a ghost story while adding emotional depth in the tale of a family on the edge of collapse in the early 1960s.

“Origin of Evil” acts as a prequel of sorts to the first “Ouija,” telling the story of how the board came to be in the first place. However, director Mike Flanagan uses the same skills he displayed in films like “Hush” and “Oculus” to build a better movie around a fairly rote concept. “Origin of Evil” follows the Zander family in the wake of the patriarch’s death. When mother Alice brings home a Ouija, the youngest daughter Doris finds herself able to talk to ghosts, including the spirit of her father…or so she thinks.

Without getting into further details, I will add that “Ouija: Origin of Evil” can be understood without having seen the first movie. In fact, that might make this sequel even more enjoyable. The horror in this film is superior, building tension while simultaneously doling out scare after scare, all with a wickedly funny sense of humor. The cast, led by Elizabeth Reaser as Alice Zander and Annalise Basso as eldest daughter Paulina, is uniformly excellent, with special praise going to Lulu Wilson as the possessed Doris. Wilson is only nine, yet still manages to bring the audience to the edge of their seats. Finally, the setting of the film in the 1960s adds an atmosphere to the movie that the original did not have, giving it at greater sense of purpose. Plus, horror films are always more exciting when cellphones aren’t present to make everything easier.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” is never perfect, but it is an effective horror film with a purpose, a concept very rarely seen in theaters anymore. If you like the idea of being scared out of your seat, this is the film for you.

The Babadook

"Babadook" is currently available to stream on Netflix. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG DUFFY/ FLICKR)
“Babadook” is currently available to stream on Netflix. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG DUFFY/ FLICKR)

If jump scares aren’t your thing, or if you’d rather be curled up under your own blanket in bed, 2014’s “The Babadook” is the perfect film for that. Currently on Netflix, “The Babadook” is an Australian film about a mother raising a son with behavioral problems while slowly beginning to think that her boy is not the only cause of chaos in her life. Despite nothing ever popping out of the screen, “The Babadook” still can find horror in the reality of everyday life.

After reading her six-year-old son Samuel a pop-up book about a monster called the Babadook, Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) begins to realize that the creature might not have remained within the pages. The two find themselves losing sleep and becoming increasingly paranoid, constantly believing that the Babadook is real and out to kill them. However, the matter quickly becomes a question of Amelia’s sanity, whether she’s imagining the monster or if it really exists.

With a breathtaking stand-out performance from Davis and a wonderful script from the writer-director Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook” manages to pull you in like a good novel, playing out almost as if it was written by Stephen King. However, the movie also works as an interesting meditation on mental illness and how that affects one’s self and those they love. Most of the true thrills come from the constant wondering of what is real and what is fake, whether the Vanek’s created a real monster or simply one in their own minds.

“The Babadook” is currently on Netflix. “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is in theaters across New York, including AMC and Regal theaters. Discounted tickets for both theaters are sold weekly in The Office of Student Involvement, Room G33 in the new 140 W Building.