Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oculus

Evil haunted mirror is evil! Or so is the premise of Oculus, a horror movie by Mike Flanagan.

This time, the evil mirror's victims are Tim and Kaylie Russell. Tim is just getting out of the looney bin, having been straightened out by a mental health care professional, who has him convniced that his father went nuts and killed his mother, and then Tim killed him in self-defense.

Not (ha ha) some evil haunted mirror what is evil.

I mean, can you imagine?

Of course, the instant he gets out of Crazytown, his loving sister is there to tell him that, in fact, Evil Haunted Mirror is on the loose, and doesn't he remember they swore to destroy it?!

Anyway, that's your set up. The story is told in parallel with the historical story, with mom and dad going crazier and crazier, and the climaxes of the two stories synchronizing at the same time.

Good atmosphere. The characters are likable, so you feel for them as they go through their hardships. There's a good build up to the end without a reliance on cheap, schlocky shocks.

The acting is good: Karen Gillan ("Doctor Who" and the bizarrely funny "NTSF:SD:SUV") powers the movie as the obsessive Kaylie, determined to outsmart the mirror at its own game. Brendon Thwaite (Maleficent) is the brother who's fighting her but slowly being won over. Katie Sackhoff ("Battlestar Galactica", "24") is sympathetic as the mother, and Rory Cochrane (Argo, "24" also!) plays the brooding father with just the right hint of Jack Nicholson/Jack Torrance.

The Boy was really pleased.

Me? Not so much. But since the reason why could be considered spoiler-y, don't read on if you don't wanna be spoiled.

OK? You stop reading now!

Don't wanna hear any whining. (As if anyone comments these days.)

So, in short:

Not my kind of horror movie. Because the villain is the Evil Haunted Mirror, it has to have powers that make the whole game rigged. Of course, all movies are rigged, and horror movies doubly so, but when I clue in to that, I tend to lose interest. Just like any decent fantasy film, a truly great horror movie has to have some pretty strict rules.

And, to its credit, this movie sets up some rules, and appears to play by them, but ultimately the truth is, once you come under the Evil Haunted Mirror's influence, it's game over: It can make you experience whatever It wants, and you're cooked.

The resolution is reasonably well done, too, but again, not my thing.

Also, there's a lot of kids-in-peril stuff, which isn't something I find fun. (It doesn't rule it out, and this movie does a good job with it, but it raises my demands on a movie.)

But, as I say: A taste thing. And even with all my reservations: not bad.

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