Sarah Kirk recommends these ten horror films if you like demons, ghosts, dark objects, and terror.
Numerous horror films feature Ouija boards. The game has permeated American culture since 1886 when Spiritualists in the United States believed that the dead could contact the living and reportedly used a talking board very similar to a modern Ouija board at their camps in Ohio to encourage faster communication with spirits. The Ouija board was created, named, and commercially introduced in Baltimore, Maryland, by Elijah Bond on July 1, 1890. It was believed to be an innocent parlor game unrelated to the occult until American spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use during World War I.
In 1901, William Fuld started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija." Charles Kennard, the founder of Kennard Novelty Company, manufactured Fuld's spirit boards and claimed he learned the name "Ouija" from using the board. In the late 1900s, the Ouija board became more taboo and appeared in films. Society still maintains a fascination with the Ouija board today. The notoriety of the Ouija board never seems to fade, though some debate whether its spirits or psychological tricks explained by science continue to exaggerate the paranormal commodity. Watch these films with Ouija boards if you’re curious, a believer in ghosts, or just love the horror genre.
Ouija boards remain a present force throughout decades of cinema. The horror genre often depicts these unnerving objects as channels for spirits to connect with the living. Marketing methods labeled the board as a game, but it continues to expand into a popular supernatural conduit used in horror films.
The supernatural horror film, The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin and written for the screen by William Peter Blatty, based on his 1971 novel, had a significant influence on pop culture and is deemed one of the most frightening films in horror history. With demonic possession, the stairs scene we all know, and the exorcism, culminating in a terrifying two-hour film. Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) is a young girl who, after using Ouija to contact a spirit name "Captain Howdy," is possessed by a dark entity. It soon torments Regan and her mother (Ellen Burstyn). Regan loses her innocence to the demon possessing her as frightening images stain the screen, leaving audiences with lasting terror. The horrifying consequences of the Ouija board are far more wicked than the board itself, so use one with caution, my friends. The Exorcist is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, the film follows Claire (Pfeiffer), who senses a presence in her lakeside home. Her husband, Norman (Ford), worries as she talks about seeing odd things, unsettling supernatural occurrences, and hearing voices. Unsure of the origin, Claire and her spiritually connected friend Jody (Diana Scarwid) try to contact the spirit haunting her. The seance isn’t scary and unsettling like in other horror films, but the scares come through in other ways. The film is unexpectedly frightening, and the search for the truth has never been more menacing than in What Lies Beneath (2000), currently streaming on Hulu.
Paranormal Activity (2007), directed by Oren Peli, uses "found footage" to reinvigorate the horror subgenre. Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) move into a new home only to find themselves plagued by a demonic presence. The spirit haunting them is active at night and appears precisely as they fall asleep at their most vulnerable. Unfortunately, Micah plays with the Ouija board, thinking it is only a game, while Katie, scared and upset, tries to leave. As Micah and Katie argue, the Ouija board moves on its own and catches on fire. The film is riddled with suspense and leaves viewers questioning everything. The film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
A prequel to Ouija (2014), Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) is a supernatural horror film directed and edited by Mike Flanagan and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. The film is based on characters by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, who wrote the film's predecessor. It follows the story of the Zander family, scamming people for money with fake séances and Ouija boards. They soon find themselves entangled in a dangerous liaison with dark spirits. After the death of the family patriarch, they are desperate to reconnect with him, using the Ouija board to perform a séance for themselves. Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) unknowingly contacts an evil spirit named Marcus, who then possesses Doris (Lulu Wilson), her youngest daughter. The film is a well-crafted horror film with upsetting scenes, suspense, and emotional turmoil. It’s an ode to the controversial and terrifying nature of the Ouija board. Ouija: Origin of Evil is streaming on Netflix.
The Ouija board is what drives the story of Witchboard (1986). In his directorial debut, the supernatural horror film was written and directed by Kevin S. Tenney, who later delivered the Halloween cult classic Night of the Demons (1988). The Ouija board is at the root of everyone’s problems and must be destroyed at all costs. Linda (Tawny Kitaen) becomes obsessed with using the board to speak with David, the spirit of a young boy who died after being left behind at a party. Her friend, Brandon (Stephen Nichols), thinks she's too involved and worries for her safety. He believes an evil spirit is trying to take Linda’s soul to live in the real world. While Jim (Todd Allen), Linda’s boyfriend, commits to helping Brandon save Linda from her terrible fate. While the critical response to the film wasn't favorable, it's a memorable, emotional, and intriguing story that has obtained a cult following since its release. Witchboard is streaming on Amazon Prime Video and other streaming platforms.
In the supernatural horror film 13 Ghosts (1960), a mysterious and eerie mansion is left to Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) by his recently deceased uncle. He discovers that a family fortune lies in the mansion, and along with his inheritance, the house is inhabited by 13 ghosts. Throughout the film, the ghosts threaten Cyrus and his family. It’s a perfect use of the haunted house trope. William Castle, the film’s director, had previously directed two horror films that involved prop-like setups, making for an immersive viewing experience. It may not be truly terrifying due to its early 1960s release, but a frightening Ouija board scene makes it one to remember. 13 Ghosts is streaming on Roku.
The Conjuring 2 (2016), written by Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, and James Wan, with Wan directing, focuses on possession and paranormal activity in a family's house where a single mother is raising her four children. Following their recent notoriety after their investigation of the Amityville haunting, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) travel to Enfield, a borough in north London, in 1977 to investigate the Hodgson family's case after Janet has begun suffering possession by an angry spirit. While it's the weakest entry in James Wan's supernatural film universe and doesn't hold up to its predecessor, The Conjuring (2013), it's worth a few good scares, and it is the introduction of the singularly evil entity, The Nun. The Conjuring 2 is streaming on Netflix and HBO Max.
Satan’s Blood (1978), co-written and directed by Carlos Puerto with Juan Piquer Simón, is a Spanish horror film overflowing with satanic rituals, nudity, and graphic violence. It was released during the rise of the Satanic Panic and society's growing fears about occultism. After roaming the town of Madrid, Bruno (Ángel Aranda) and Berta (Sandra Alberti) invite Andrés (José María Guillén) and Ana (Mariana Karr) to spend the night at their house in the countryside. Bruno and Berta are fascinated by the occult and decide to put on a séance. As one might expect, it goes horribly awry. Satan’s Blood isn't currently streaming, but it is available on Blu-Ray through Amazon.
I Am ZoZo (2012), written and directed by Scott Di Lallais, is a psychological thriller that follows five teens who decide to have fun on Halloween night with the Ouija board, only to make contact with a malicious spirit. The film is said to be based on true events, with people reporting experiencing ZoZo’s presence. ZoZo attaches itself to individuals through the Ouija board to tap into their fears and scare them. However, the film doesn’t rely on jump scares. It focuses entirely on the frightened reactions of the characters. What’s unique about this film is that it was shot on a Kodak Super 8mm film stock with a meager budget. It's an indie horror gem currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Roku, Tubi, and other streaming platforms.
Don’t give Ouija boards as a birthday gift. Don’t Panic (1987) is a Mexcian slasher film directed by Rubén Galindo Jr. demonstrating exactly why you shouldn’t own the parlor game. After receiving and using a Ouija board on his 17th birthday, Michael’s (Jon Michael Bischof) friends begin horrifically and violently dying. Police believe Michael to be their prime suspect as killings continue to occur. Is it Michael or an evil force behind the slayings? It's a bit of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) rip-off, but while it's comedic, it's also suspenseful, benefiting from keeping the killer in the shadows. Don't Panic is streaming on Roku and Amazon Prime Video. It's also available to purchase through Vinegar Syndrome.
Ouija boards drive panic and unease into the minds of filmgoers. The Ouija board has been a mysterious phenomenon for hundreds of years. Its distinctiveness, supernatural, and somewhat melancholic connotation are what draw us in. Today they’re seen as a relic from the past and something to avoid unless you want to open a door to the spirit world you may be unable to close.