Combustible Celluloid
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With: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty, Miguel Sandoval, Kate Siegel
Written by: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard, based on a short screenplay by Mike Flanagan, Jeff Seidman
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language
Running Time: 105
Date: 04/10/2014

Oculus (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Mirror Smacked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Creepy mirrors have been part of horror movies for ages, but none of them have been anything quite like Oculus.

After eleven years, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is released from a psychiatric hospital after having killed his father as a boy. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) immediately asks him to participate in a ritual; to help destroy a creepy old mirror that she thinks caused all the trouble. At first, it appears as if Kaylie may be crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that the mirror has the power to make people see things.

Soon the siblings are flashing back to the events of their childhood, when the mirror drove their mother (Katee Sackhoff) into hysterics and turned their father (Rory Cochrane) into a homicidal maniac. Will Tim and Kaylie be able to tell reality from nightmare and survive?

Right away, Oculus immediately turns expectations upside down with the Tim character, a troubled, but cured soul with blood on his hands. The question of whether he'll kill again quickly becomes moot as his old bond with his sister re-asserts itself.

The characters are strong and interact in vivid ways, and they remain the movie's anchor; they are no horror movie amateurs, and they struggle to stay on top of the scares. But the movie's real weapon is the flashbacks, which are not specifically used as flashbacks, but rather illusions and nightmares forced upon the characters by the mirror's evilness. They fold over into reality, as younger and older versions of the same characters regard one another, and it's clear that they shouldn't be taken literally.

This is a breakthrough for director Mike Flanagan, and a most reflective horror movie.

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