After Todd Tucker and his Illusion Industries make-up effects studio had worked on the Blumhouse Productions of Visions (2015) and Stephanie (still to be released, tentatively at the end of 2016), the relationship led to talks of creating the creatures and make-ups for Ouija: Origin of Evil, a sequel to 2014’s Ouija. Tucker met with the sequel’s director and editor, Mike Flanagan, and then hit the ground running, designing the different ghouls and creatures described in the script.

At first, make-up department head Tucker was challenged by screenwriters Flanagan and Jeff Howard’s language in conveying the look of the ghouls. “The script read that these ghouls were nightmarish, with no mouths, and white in the shadows,” Tucker said.  “We thought white might look odd. [Flanagan] wanted emaciated—I said ‘Why don’t we make them solid black and do some skin discoloration?’”

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Tucker felt that painting the ghouls with dark colors would make them more menacing. “We did sculpture design and a couple of Photoshops,” he said of the next stage. “We also did a likeness silicone head of the lead actress for the stretching-mouth effect; visual effects took it over from there. We also did the corpses in the walls of the basement and the stitched-mouth make-up on the lead actress, plus all of her demonic looks.”

Illusion Industries created five total ghouls who were then multiplied using computer-generated imagery to look like dozens. Doug Jones played the lead ghoul character. “The heads for the ghouls were all done out of foam,” explained Tucker. “The bodies were created as foam buildups over the top of spandex suits. The camera could pick it up and not have any issues. The hands and feet were included and [the suits] zipped up the back—they could dress in five minutes.”

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Martin Astles

Although Illusion Industries relocated to an improved facility near Burbank Airport, Ouija: Origin of Evil was prepared at their previous shop. “Our build time was about five to six weeks,” Tucker detailed, noting that many production companies offer make-up studios considerably less prep time than in past years. “Decisions can’t be made, and they push it to the last minute. But we had enough time for us to do everything we needed to do.”

As Ouija: Origin of Evil was a $6 million film, a paucity of funds compared to the traditional 21st century studio feature, time was of the essence in preparing the make-ups, both in the Illusion shop and on set.  “When we got on set, we had cut down the application time considerably,” Tucker revealed. “The heads were pre-painted with face appliances—it would blend off from the neck on the body suits. The final touches were yellow scleral lenses. The fake head of Doris, the little girl, was a silicone head. The make-up for the stitched mouth was a silicone appliance.”

Head designer Martin Astles applied Jones’ ghoul character on set; Tucker concentrated on the lead little girl and the four additional ghouls. “The creatures came out really cool,” Tucker proclaimed. “They are pretty different and look cool in the film. [Recently,] I’ve been doing more realistic make-up-y stuff; I hadn’t done a lot of creatures. It’s nice to do another really cool creature-y thing.”

Of his now legendary performances as creatures in a host of horror films, Jones was deferential about his contributions. “Hopefully, what anyone should bring to it is not being a suit performer – it’s being an actor,” said Jones. “It takes an actor on the inside to create the character from his heart and soul and work that way out through the make-up that’s just been applied to you.”

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Doug Jones
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Doug Jones

It took one hour for Astles to apply Jones’ full ghoul make-up, with 20 additional minutes needed to blend him down in the costume.

Tucker said other ghouls were done similarly. “We did the heads first to blend off the eyes,” he recalled.  “They didn’t have any mouth. Blending off at the neck area onto the suit, glue down eyes, put bodies on after that [which were] on in 30 minutes. Production loved us—what should have been a three-hour make-up was done in a third of that.”

To paint the ghouls, Tucker and his team used a combination of Illustrator colors and acrylic pack while silicones were done with silicone paint. For the five prop corpses found in the basement walls in the story, Illusion Industries’ craftspeople fabricated the characters over the top of synthetic skeletons using latex, cotton, Fuller’s Earth and some silicone pieces.

Ultimately, Tucker is pleased with the results in Ouija: Origin of Evil, now out in general release in North America. “We created something that I hadn’t seen before,” he said. “We came up with something novel that helped tell the story and give a unique visual to the movie. I’m very proud of what we did.”


Ouija: Origin of Evil opened in theaters Friday, Oct. 21.