Monday, October 3, 2016

Movie Appraisal: Oculus (2013)

It is late at night, and I just finished this movie. And I don't know what to do. I'm not alone in my apartment. I shouldn't feel this nameless fear striking me in the gut. My fiancee, who does not like horror movies, is asleep in the bedroom as I write this review. She did not watch the movie either. She probably does not even know that I watched it.

I only say that because I am not even alone here, and yet I feel more alone after watching this movie than I have in a very long time. I have, for the past two years, done as little as possible with the horror genre. Sure, I've watched a few movies that I've definitely watched and reviewed on this blog before, And I've played a few horror video games as well. But for the most part my life has been devoid of horror because I like saying my thoughts on this blog about horror movies, and couldn't bring myself to watch them without being able to write a review up. It's my own failing really. I could have watched them and not had my life of loving horror movies on pause, but I felt that the new horror movies I would watch should have a fresh experience of review, rather than a review of someone who has definitely seen it more than once.

I'm explaining myself too much. Suffice it to say, I was thoroughly terrified by this movie.

It succeeded in being both very scary and extremely unsettling. I'm not sure if I'll be able to sleep tonight. And that's great because I love great and scary horror movies. It's also terrible because I have work tomorrow and my fragile mind should not have to deal with this much psychological horror all at once.

I guess I should get started with my extremely positive review of this film. Oculus is brilliant. This is exactly the type of movie I search for, especially in the more "mainstream" horror movies. It's exactly the type of movie I spend my waking hours seeking. The whole "very old object" horror works so well. It is almost Lovecraftian in nature, something beyond the scope of human ken. And that's a huge reason why this movie works so well for me.

Oculus is directed by Mike Flanagan, the man who also directed Absentia, a movie I look back on a lot more fondly than my review does, I'll say that much. It could be that I think better of it because Doug Jones himself commented on a blog post I had written up for the movie, or maybe I just have a very fond memory of the tunnel idea itself. I still do not think it is a wonderful movie, but time has been kind in my mind to it. So, seeing another movie by the same director was exciting for me. It's seeing how somebody has grown and developed over time.

And grow Mike Flanagan did. His directing chops are really quite something to behold. And so is this film.

The word "oculus" is Latin, It usually means "orb" or "eye." But it can also mean "eyesight" and a couple of other less relevant things. I'm kind of a Latin nerd. Sorry. But I find it fascinating that they focused on a word that means "eye" as the title of the film. I think it might be one of the most telling parts of the movie itself.

Anyway, the plot revolves around a brother and sister, whose parents were both killed when the siblings were younger. Their mother was "tortured" and killed by their father, and their father was killed by the brother, Tim. Tim is put into a mental hospital, which he stays until eleven years later on his twenty-first birthday as the film begins. The sister, Kaylie (played by a manic Karen Gillan), believes that she has all the answers to what happened all those years ago, and she recruits her brother to help her citing the promise they made to one another years before of destroying the evil that plagued their family.

And there's the premise. The thing that Kaylie blames for all their troubles is a very old antique mirror that her parents had purchased and put into her father's study. And the mirror is the true source of "evil" or malignancy or whatever you want to call it. It makes both parents go mad in different ways, but the children don't seem to go mad, not until they have become adults and try to best the mirror themselves.

The film blends both past and present together seamlessly. It is a wonderful mixing of time periods into this terrifying story. It messes with one's own perceptions when watching the film. I love the psychology that has been taken into account in the movie, talking about fuzzy memories  and blocks in the mind. The mirror uses weaknesses and strengths against the siblings and all whom it comes into contact. And that is truly terrifying.

Oculus is a cross between 1408 and Sinister or maybe Insidious or something. That sounds like a vague comparison to make, but there are a great deal of these movies that have come out recently that have very similar design and conceptual qualities to them. It is definitely mainstream-ish 2010s horror is my ultimate point here. I hope that doesn't sound like an insult. While current horror is not my favorite horror to watch, there really have been some amazing gems that have come out in well-known movies. It just so happens that a lot of these movies, if popular, get endless sequels that beat the premise into the ground like a hammer to a stake.

And that is the real problem of these well made and original horror movies. Sequels will ruin the novelty and brilliance of these ideas if given the chance. But, I will say that I am glad that I have avoided most of the 2010s horror sequel craze. So, there's that, at least.

Anyway,  I have to say that this movie was something I wasn't expecting, I can't even deal with the ending right now after just watching it. I won't spoil it here. But having it comparable to 1408 was not a bad thing to me. It just happened to be a lot worse in the end. Maybe. It's hard to say.

I have a few more musings before I wrap up. Obviously, because I liked it, I really don't want to spoil it for anybody. I had heard nothing but recommendations for this movie. And that's all I really have to say about it. The film is really excellent at getting its points across, and while it gets really heavy-handed with some of its ideas, it also is very subtle in its approach of character building, especially if you consider the mirror one of the characters.

Anyway, random musings time. There was a reference to a "South Windham Whale" in the movie as Kaylie is listing the history of the mirror. This reference is an oddity for me specifically. I know the majority of the readers here will literally not think twice about the reference as anything but a one-off joke. But I grew up in a town right next to South Windham, Connecticut. I know that town like the back of my hand. So, it's weird to hear it mentioned in a pretty major horror movie motion picture thing. It doesn't happen very often, and it made me regard the movie with a bit more interest.

It is terrifying and so well put together as a movie. I haven't seen a new horror movie this good in quite the long time, probably three or four years at the least. Holy hell is it good though. I loved this movie from every angle. It is superb storytelling. It gets you involved, . The movement between the past and the present is seamless, and I can't state that enough.

Anyway, it is a strong recommendation. If you are sensitive to gore, realize that, while there isn't a ton, there definitely is some vicious moments of it in passing. But beyond that, I can't say enough good things about it.

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