Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
October 4, 2016

A prequel to the 2014 film that first brought Hasbro's "talking board" to the big screen, Ouija: Origin of Evil rewinds the clock to the late 1960s to explore the early days of the malignant forces behind the moving planchette. While dedicated origin stories set in the realm of horror often feel unnecessary and subpar, Origin of Evil breaks the mold and establishes a compelling family drama at its core, distinguishing itself as one of those rare entries in the genre that surpasses the original. This is due in no small part to the talent at the helm, director/writer Mike Flanagan and writer Jeff Howard: the duo's previous collaborations on Oculus and Before I Wake have both put an emphasis on character-driven stories aptly blended with horrific elements and some jarring visuals.

In the wake of her husband's untimely death, widowed matriarch Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) does what she can to provide for her two girls, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). To these ends, she conducts seances out of her own house for grieving individuals desiring contact with lost loved ones. The self-made business is a fraudulent one, with Alice's talents lying more in showmanship and ingenuity than legitimate channels to the other side, but the single mom of two believes she is ultimately doing good in the world by earning a living and imparting hope to the faithful. But things take a sinister turn when she incorporates the Ouija board into her act, inadvertently tapping into malevolent entities that have long lingered in her family's home. As time goes on, young Doris slowly succumbs to their influence, prompting her distressed older sister Lina to confront her mother and enlist the aid of her school principal, Father Tom (Henry Thomas).

Following in the footsteps of the godfather of all possession films, The Exorcist, Ouija: Origin of Evil spends ample time cultivating the story of the Zanders, making the subsequent horrors inflicted upon them that much more palpable for viewers. Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, and Henry Thomas all bring their A-game to the project, which, despite its rapt attention to character development, also remembers to deliver a healthy dose of supernatural fun and thrills, and even connects to the first film in an emotional and satisfying way.

In this exclusive interview, precocious and energetic young actress Lulu Wilson, who is tasked with the central role of Doris and transforms from sweet little sister to death-spewing vessel of darkness, talks about her experience of working on Ouija: Origin of Evil, her love of the genre, and her early start in acting.

Ouija: Origin of Evil comes to Blu-ray and DVD on January 17. As you probably know by now, there's a long tradition of scary little girls in horror movies...

LULU: Yeah, it goes back ages and ages!

[laughs] So how did you feel about getting the chance to play one?

Well, to tell the truth, when I first got the script, I was thinking, "Oh, another possessed little girl?" I feel like it's kind of old. [laughs] But once you see the movie, it's like, this isn't your average possessed girl, because you actually care about her--you care about everyone in the movie...I just felt like the family environment was so sweet, and there was this curious little girl. Really, all she wanted was to be with her dad again, and to contact her dad again. That's all she wanted to do. And if you really think about it, that's basically what the movie's about--it's about a family going through these struggles.

I understand you got to do a lot of your own stunts. What were your favorite physical scenes to shoot?

I love the stunts so much! My favorite stunt would probably be the backbend when I get possessed, because that was the first stunt that I ever did in my whole life. And that was really cool...They put me in a harness and there were these wires holding me up. But that one actually made my neck hurt really bad, because I had to swing my head back, and then go back in the backbend. And it was really hard. But once I got the swing of things, it was a lot of fun.

How did you and your onscreen big sister Annalise Basso get along?

We are like the best of friends! She actually comes over to my house like every night, or every day if it's on the weekend, and she always eats her meals at my house. [laughs] And we're just such good friends. She just really gets me, because she's also the youngest of three. We just are one in the same, really.

You seem to be very comfortable with horror movies. What do you think of the genre?

I love horror movies! I really do. My favorite TV show right now is actually Stranger Things. I just love it so much. I actually wrote a script and I sent it to the Duffer Brothers, the producers, for the second season. And a character idea. Hopefully they'll get back to me soon, but... [laughs]

Do you remember your first experience with scary movies?

Well, it's not scary, but if you really think about it a lot, it is: it's Coraline. That was the first kind of creepy thing I ever saw. I absolutely love that movie. It's one of my favorites. And then I watched Pan's Labyrinth, which I really liked. And then I watched The Sixth Sense, and then I watched Annabelle, and then I watched Stranger Things.

Even though it's your film and you know how it was made, are you still able to be scared by Ouija?

Yes! Because I didn't know they were going to be doing all these special effects to me. I was kind of like, "Oh, they're not going to make me that creepy..." And then I [saw it and] was like, "Wow, that's pretty creepy!" And just seeing myself not really myself is strange. [laughs] And also, there are two moments where you blink and you miss it...There's one where my mouth is stretched out in a smile, and my teeth are, like, clamped together. I think that's really scary. [And] also the moment where my head is changing in the background. It's super freaky.

Our audience also freaked out when Doris would suddenly appear behind someone and rapidly whisper in their ear. Were you saying anything specific in those scenes?

Yes! Yes, I was! You can barely hear it, but what I'm saying is "watermelon, dishwasher, Mississippi" over and over and over. And it looks like you're saying stuff. [demonstrates] It's a cool technique. Also, you can do that if you forget the lyrics to a song, and you're singing at school or something. You can just go, "Watermelon, dishwasher, Mississippi..." [laughs]

You've also done comedy in addition to horror. Which do you enjoy more: making people laugh, or scaring them?

Scaring them. Definitely scaring them!

Have you watched Ouija with an audience yet, and gotten to see viewers' reactions?

No...Oh, well, I have seen them freak out because I did a live prank at the Playlist Live event in Washington, DC. They were showing an exclusive screening of the movie, and like 300 people came to see it. And on the screen was [an image] of me...And I started to say, like, "Welcome, I'm glad you have decided to join me here today." And I just say a bunch of stuff, and then I start doing the Ouija board. And then I'm like, "I'm not done with you yet." And then I come back after the end of the movie, and I walk in and I scare everyone. It was amazing!

In your movie Annabelle 2, you're the one being scared. How did that compare to your experience of doing the scaring?

Well, in Deliver Us from Evil, I had to do that, but that was different because I was, like, 6. [laughs] But in Annabelle 2, it was a lot harder because being scary...I don't know, it's just easier to me. It comes naturally to me. [laughs] I don't know how, it just does. But being the scared one, it's harder.

I know it's not always polite to ask a lady her age, but we're all kind of curious...When is your birthday?

[October 7]...2005. I'm turning 11 [this] Friday.

How early did you get started with the whole show business thing?

Since I was 3...It was commercials, voiceovers...I did print, too, like photoshoots and stuff.

How did it all start? Did you express an interest in acting even at that age?

[laughs] No, it was actually a funny story...My sister was an actor. And when I was little, my mom didn't have anywhere to take me because my dad was always at work. And so she just brought me along with my sister to the photoshoots, and to commercial auditions, and all that kind of stuff. And I just thought that's what you do, that's what everyone does. That's what I am going to do! And soon they just started using me. Like without notice, they were just like, "Oh, can we use your little girl for the photoshoot?" And my mom was like, "Sure!"

Are you being homeschooled or attending a regular school?

I'm at a regular school here in North Hollywood...It's like the best school in the world! [laughs] Everyone's so nice, and it's such a relaxed environment. I used to live in New York City, and at my old school, everyone was very high strung. And it was very hard, actually. We did this thing called Singapore math, which was for the more creative types. And I'm pretty creative, and I still couldn't do it! [laughs]

Thank you so much for your time today. And good luck with that Stranger Things pitch!

Thank you! Nice meeting you!

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