Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Entertainment

April 24, 2014

'Oculus' offers competent storytelling, but not many scares

FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES — I’m not a big fan of horror films, but occasionally a scary movie comes along that manages to do something new or, in the least, interesting in the genre.

Movies like 2007’s “1408,” 1976’s “Carrie,” 2009’s “Paranormal Activity” and 2003’s “28 Days Later” come to mind. There are others, of course, but for every gem like 2012’s “Chronicle” or every masterpiece like the 1980’s “The Shining,” there are seven “Saws” and thirteen “Friday the Thirteenths.”

“Oculus” is the latest horror film attempting to break the typical-horror-movie mold, coming in the form of a haunted-mirror story. That premise may sound somewhat trite, but don’t be fooled, “Oculus” might be about a haunted mirror per se, but this movie is, through and through, a haunted-house film.

Writer/director Mike Flanagan does an admirable job toning down “Oculus’” gorier, more violent elements (and this film certainly DOES have such aspects), and instead focuses more on simply telling a creepy story.

Flanagan jumps between two timeframes here – the present and 11 years before, when the Russell family moved into a new home. The family patriarch, Allen (Rory Cochrane), is a computer programmer who’s excited to decorate his new home-office with an antique mirror he bought at a pawn shop.

Unbeknownst to Allen, the mirror has a long, sinister history dating back several centuries. The Russell family comes to understand the mirror’s power too late, with wife and mother Marie (Katee Sackhoff) being tortured and murdered by Allen, and Allen being shot to death by 10-year-old son Tim (Garrett Ryan).

Fast forward 11 years, and 21-year-old Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is being released from a mental hospital, following a decade of therapy to help him understand that what happened with his mother and father had nothing to do with a haunted mirror.

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