Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY... STILL ISN'T GOING TO HELP...










Oculus (2014)

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Reference Bible) For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known.  (King James Version) For now we see through a glass, darkly...

I actually had most of this review done a couple of months ago but those of you who have read even a few of my reviews won't be a bit surprised that I got sick, my mind got lost, and the notes... are somewhere in the universe, just not on my blog. Nuts. That meant I had to watch this mind fu... umm this mind twisting tale again and try my best to comprehend what the hell was going on.


Thennnn... well, just read the above paragraph again and you'll get a pretty good idea why it's clear in freaking December and I'm just now getting this out.

Hey but considering they shot this back in 2012 in Mobile, Alabama of all places, then didn't get it out until 2013 (in Toronto) and didn't even hit an American theater until April of this year, it looks like I'm not the only slacker here.

If you want an in-depth understanding, two or three viewings may be necessary. This isn't as bad as you might think, as overall I believe the movie was well done. In other words, they left it in the oven WAAAAAAY too long. It was a confusing mish mash of past and present events, most taking place on screen simultaneously. Plus, quick lesson movie making guys - an oculus means 'eye' in Latin although it can be a round opening or a circular window. You guys weren't even trying, were you?



Remember me telling you about Insidious 1 and 2 coming out two years apart was really stupid because there were questions in the first that were answered in the second but in two years who remembers the questions? You don't? Pffft... go to the back of the class and study a little harder kiddo. Anywho, here instead of having story one with the kids, then two years later the story of the kids as adults, they mish-mashed both together. Fun.

I honestly have no idea why it was rated 'R' either, and that's after ranting that no horror movie should be PG-13. This is yet another 'R' rated movie featuring kids that kids should NOT see. Not unless you want to invest in a freaking truckload of night lights and having your kids jump into bed with you at every night sound. And that's not including night terrors either. It's an interesting choice by the WWE Studios though. So far we've seen them doing slasher films (including the anticipated See No Evil 2 with Kane and the impressive Soska sisters) so this is a bit of a gamble for them.



My first viewing's impression found this to be a good film overall - the actors were solid and convincing (especially the small kids), the directing was good, suspense, story progression - all that stuff that REAL movie reviewers wet themselves over were basically here. But I am NOT one of those reviewers. So let me tell you why this movie not only wasn't very original, it wasn't very good, either. Oh and if you haven't seen it and you wanna, I've learned I have to say SPOILERS so...

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

This, of course, has to do with the mystical take of mirrors. It's not new, it's not original, and it's not limited to any one people, religion, time, or belief. Ever since man figured out how to look at himself without getting wet (from looking at the water people, not... never mind) there have been superstitions, beliefs, and paranormal views of mirrors. The movie is rather simple when you look at it - it's the history that's more interesting. And so:


A bad, bad mirror does bad, bad things to one family... it leaves 10 year old Tim (Brenton Thwaites in adult form, Garrett Ryan as his younger self) in a mental facility until he turns 21. His older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan in adult form, Annalise Basso as her younger self) apparently spent her growing up time plotting revenge. Her preparations are impressive, she'd done the research and thinks she has every possible outcome planned out and carefully controlled so she and her newly-released brother can do what they planned - kill it with a "kill switch" - an anchor weighted to the ceiling and set to a timer.

Thankfully they didn't try to make this 'based on a true story' so the history is bogus but entertaining:



A rather ugly looking antique (my words), the 400 year-old Lasser Glass is supposedly home to an observable, predictable supernatural force. That's a nice, college graduate way of saying the freaking mirror is haunted. It has 'killed' at least 45 people (no, they don't say how many dogs and plants). Since she blurs past this history and I wanted to know who the hell Marisol was (the woman who 'seduced' their dad) I took it step by step:

The trail starts in London in 1754. Philip Lasser, the 17th Earl of Leicester, was the first recorded owner. He hung the mirror over his fireplace. He was found in that fireplace burned beyond recognition. One of the stewards claimed to have seen Philip reflected in the mirror which prompted the Church of England to investigate the house. Was anything done? Pfft...

In 1758 it is sold in public auction and then to an American railroad tycoon, Robert Clancy, in 1864. Clancy weighed over 300 pounds. He was called the South Windham Whale. After hanging the mirror he is seen less than a year later, thin as a, to pardon the pun, rail. He died a few weeks later.


The mirror was thought to have been destroyed but pops up in 1904 in New England belonging to Mary O'Connor. She hung the mirror in her bathroom and was found dead two weeks later in a bathtub full of water. Cause of death? Dehydration.

Then Alice Carden in Lake Geneva Wisconsin in 1943. Soon after she got it neighbors reported screams and loud noises coming from the house. Alice's two children were found drowned in a locked cistern. Alice was in the nursery, systematically smashing her own bones with a hammer. She thought she was tucking her children into bed. The family also kept several dogs at the farm but none of them were ever found.

Then Tobin Capp, 1955. Starved to death in his own bedroom - where the mirror was placed. He had a pet Dalmation, also never found (apparently all kitties are safe).


California, 1965. The mirror now belongs and hangs in the San Diego Hill Trust Bank lobby. Marcia Wicker, a teller for ten years, locks her manager in the bank vault and then chews through a live power line (my fave pic but I'm twisted that way).

The only person who really tried to destroy the mirror was Oliver Jeffries in 1971. He was a teacher at Manhattan's Duhame Academy. The mirror hung in the central lecture hall. He ran at it with a fireplace poker one morning, shouting about how it needed to be destroyed. He stopped at the mirror and stood quietly looking at it for almost a minute before walking out of the hall and into traffic.



1975 Marisol Chavez (Aha! Paydirt!) dies in her bedroom (where the mirror hung) of hemorrhaging due to a miscarriage. In her nightstand, they find every single one of her teeth in a little plastic bag and a pair of bloody pliers. Ohhhh, now the tooth fairy's involved, huh? I get it... no, wait. I don't get it at all... and nasty as she looked, how the hell did she manage to 'seduce' the dad... yikes.

And finally, 2002. Alan and Marie Russell (played but not given enough screen time by Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackoff, respectively) purchase the mirror and it hangs in the home office of Alan who has started a new business designing software. It takes only two weeks for the mother to suffer an intense psychological breakdown and is tortured and murdered by her husband (according to police reports, Kaylie doesn't agree). 


Afterward the father is shot and killed by Tim, which lands him in psychiatric care until his 21st birthday. Oh yeah, their dog disappears too.

So the day he gets out, his sister bombards him with her plans for the mirror's 'demise'. Nice sis, the guy has been steeped in psychiatric bullshit for eleven years, and you hammer him with paranormal mirrors the second he gets to the parking lot. But for him to get to see the world would take too much time so...

We get a slightly different, but familiar 'paranormal' activity set up of equipment - computers, cameras, timers, etc. In addition, because this thing apparently 'feeds' Kaylie has also set up house plants all through the place, as well as a dog in a cage in the same room as the mirror. This dog is only there as a type of, umm, offering (don't worry animal lovers, nothing bad happens to him). But it's said that supposedly being outside the 'dead plant' zone is the only safe place from the mirror.

The brother, fresh out of the hospital and totally brainwashed into thinking he and his sister made the whole thing up (isn't psychiatry wonderful?) is bemused, then concerned, then outright frightened - of his sister. He doesn't believe a single thing about what she's saying. However he is finding that there are disturbing memories, ones he had buried deep down that are playing out in front of him (confusing if you don't pay attention) but this he attributes to trauma, nothing else.

Until. The turning point of the movie from lets-get-this-show-on-the-road into the good stuff: He and his sister, in the room with all the cameras and the mirror, leave the room and have an all out argument. They return to the room and find that the two cameras are now facing each other, lenses touching. A review of the computer records show that they did NOT leave the room, but stood there yelling at each other while moving the cameras themselves. Now, the big question: Did THEY actually do that, only thinking they left the room, or did the 'spirits' in the mirror do it, and mess with the records to make it show only what they wanted it to?

And why do we only see (at first, more later) a woman named Marisol Chavez? Why is she the 'leader' so to speak, the primary 'spirit' in the mirror that draws the father in? That was never explained and I don't think it ever will even if they try any kind of sequel. Please God don't let that happen.



How does it end? Badly and with a whimper. Bleh.

"I've met my demons, and they are many. I've seen the devil and he is me." - Alan Russell







So what the hell is my problem with this movie?

Okay, put aside the slick camera work and the great actors and you've got the story. And... it's... just awful. I mean the concept of mirrors either trapping or holding evil is extremely old and world-wide. And the 'traditions' associated with mirrors and death are just as old. I personally have heard theories that say mirrors are covered and windows opened because recently departed spirits get confused and can't leave the house unless all the reflective surfaces are covered. Or was that the rule for flies?

Panic! At The Disco's 'Ballad Of Mona Lisa' shows an old-time western funeral and the 'rules' attached. Don't know where they got all of them or whether they just made them up but at 1:14 into the video it states that "Rule Number 3: Stop all clocks and cover all mirrors.









Covering the mirrors after a death can be found in many religions, including Judaism. It has been a time-honored tradition to cover the mirrors in the shiva home from the moment of death to the end of shiva.

A variety of reasons have been advanced for the custom of covering the mirrors:

Judaism has always taught that man was created in the image of God and that he derives, from that resemblance, his dignity and his value. The dignity of man is the reflection of his Creator and, therefore, the image of the Creator Himself shrinks with the death of His creatures. At the time of the destruction of the image of God, represented by man, the mirror-which serves to reflect man's 'image' ought not be used.

There are several more pages along this line but I'll take pity on you and stop it here.
I think this is a Def Leppard
album cover as well...

If a lot of this also reminds you of an Irish Catholic wake, you're not wrong. As I said, it transcends a lot of religions and peoples and traditions.

And movies. Lots and lots of movies. Do you know how many horror movies are about mirrors? If you knew, you'd instantly realize that Oculus, though having its tricks that it puts good actors through, is nothing but a cracked mirror and a ho-hum story that everyone has seen before.