Oculus, a Reflection

Oculus

As a movie, Oculus was fresh, unique, and interesting. As a concept, it made me a little nervous. The metaphorical sun this star system of spooks orbits is an antique mirror haunted by a particularly nasty spirit that gets its rocks off by screwing with people’s minds before driving them to suicide. You might think, “But if the spirit’s power is connected to the mirror, why can’t the protagonists just smash it?” First of all, this is a horror movie. How dare you suggest the obvious solution. Secondly, the mirror doesn’t just mess with minds; it peels them apart and drags out your deepest, darkest memories, tormenting you at a growing pace via vivid hallucinations. You thought you were smashing the mirror? Nah, you were just watering a plant. Have a gun pointed at it? Double check you’re not pointing it at yourself. Lock and load!

OculusTim Russel (Brenton Thwaites) just got released from a mental institution, supposedly fixed after suffering a particularly nasty and mirror-oriented childhood trauma. His big sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has followed the Lasser Glass to an auction house, and marks it for “repair” so she can transport it to their old family home and set the record straight. With recorded evidence of ol’ Lassie Glassie’s supernatural nature, big sister can finally prove to the world that in fact the mirror killed her mother, not their father, who was driven to violent insanity by Lassie’s aura. See, the problem there is, Kaylie is afflicted by the teenage delusion that she’s invincible to Lassie’s influence, and Tim has been mentally “fixed” so meticulously that he initially doesn’t want anything to do with the project when his sister lays down the brass tacks.

Through a system of timers, cameras, and one weighted mirror-cracking killswitch on a timer, Kaylie hopes to threaten the mirror into defending itself against the threat of destruction, consequently recording tangible proof of its supernatural influence. It sure seems like a great idea, until the siblings start experiencing none other than violent, vivid hallucinations that take them right back to the darkest days of their childhood. And yes, they’re not allowed to leave. Not until the haunt is done with them.

See, due to the psychological nature of the Lasser Glass’s power, the backstory and the present are interwoven seamlessly, to the point where you wonder what’s real and what isn’t. Not only are Kaylie and Tim having flashbacks that shut off their awareness of the present, they’re also prone to normal hallucinations that screw with them to the same extent. Seriously, Kaylie goes to take a bite out of an apple and it turns out to be a light bulb. Or does it? I’m not gonna tell you because it would be spoiling one of my favorite moments.

OculusYou can get your hopes up for the Russel siblings, but you probably shouldn’t. Oftentimes the human mind is the only thing that can conquer deranged killers and spooks, but without that… You’re even more screwed than the idiots who keep leaving machetes and chainsaws next to the supposedly dead murderer’s body. Basically spoiled the nature of the ending, but at least you get to wonder just how catastrophically they fail!

Kofi Outlaw of ScreenRant was none too happy with the ending, saying that it went out with a fizzle instead of a bang. I’m on the same page, but I do think Oculus is creative enough to warrant a curiosity watch and a rewatch for clarity at the very least. Kofi explains the origin of the film in his review, so if you want the full Oculus review experience, take a dive through here: http://screenrant.com/oculus-reviews-movie-2014/

The Grudge, Whack-a-Mole Contortionism

The Grudge

I remember a time when The Grudge was considered the latest and greatest horror movie. Looking back on it now, Sarah Michelle Gellar seemed a bit out of place in the American remake of the Japanese horror flick Ju-on. That could just be because I don’t care for her, but alas; this review’s more about the film than the cast. I’m sure most of you probably already know the story, but for the sake of formality, tallyho.

The origin of the curse is the most important aspect, as you’ll often see it reflected in the curse-killings. Kayako Saeki was locked in a loveless marriage with Takeo, and found herself growing obsessed with Peter Kirk, and American college professor working in Japan. One day, Kayako comes home to find Takeo reading her Peter-crazy (tee hee) diary. He doesn’t seem very happy. One snapped spine, one drowned Toshio Saeki (their son), and one slit cat’s throat later, Takeo hangs himself. Thus, the curse is born from Kayako’s rage. Toshio can come too.

The GrudgeFun fact: The Grudge uses noise triggers to tap into your fear centers. The guttural inhaling sound Kayako makes and the high pitched meowing sound Toshio makes show up in moments of great tension. Thus, the sounds become scary. You may get goosebumps the first or second time you hear them. Maybe. The more you know!

The Grudge has a lot of throwaway protagonists, which is rather unfortunate, because if you don’t wind up liking any of the main characters in a horror flick, you can’t feel bad for them when they die or go insane. Kayako chews through a whole bunch of throwaways before going after the main main character, letting her go, then performing one final scare just before the credits. Honestly, you watch this one for Kayako’s creepy shenanigans, not the plot or characters.

Because of how absolutely BORING all the characters are, I’m not going to describe them. They just die anyway. Instead, I’ll talk about the aforementioned Kayako monkeyshines! Hooray! Warning: May contain gurgling noises, kitty screams, black hair, and being pulled into nowhere.

I suppose it would ruin your entire experience if I called Kayako a whack-a-mole contortionist. She pops out when you least expect her, and sometimes she goes up and down stairs doing THE most uncomfortable inverse crabwalk you’ve ever seen. It’s almost adorable. I can’t say a lot for Toshio, aside from that he’s got a good creepy stare. And that he meows.
The GrudgeHijinks! Right-o. These are the main focus of the movie, and they aren’t too shabby. You never see Kayako or the mighty morphing Cat Ranger physically kill anyone, but they like to appear in beds and doorways and grandfather clocks. Sometimes they put their victims into a catatonic state and steal the life from them. Sometimes they pull their panicked prey into nowhere. Imagine that! You’re sleeping in a bed, when suddenly you notice a swell near the end of your mattress. What could it be? You lift up your sheets to find Kayako’s pale and bloody face nestled on your sternum, and she suddenly tugs your ankles and pulls you into nowhere.

Should you laugh? Be afraid? I have no idea, and because of that, I LIKE The Grudge. It has earned the Softcore Horror Seal of Approval.

Bill Beyrer of CinemaBlend hates The Grudge with a passion. HATES it! Says the cast should have been a bunch of unknowns, and that the DVD case is scarier than the movie itself. It’s true, eventually you get used to having Kayako’s dead face shoved in your face. Eventually, you just want to lean your head forward a little, give her a peck on the forehead, and say, “Okay, you can stop now.” Read up here: http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/The-Grudge-713.html

V/H/S, Who Likes Short Shorts?

V/H/S

V/H/S. I’m pretty sure I’d have never stumbled across this movie if I hadn’t been fatally bored while skimming through Netflix’s selection of god-awful horror movies. You see, V/H/S is a testament to horror movie stereotypes. All the female characters have to be sexy, all the male characters have to be horny assholes, and fucking everybody has to fucking say fucking fuck as fucking much as fucking possible. Also, if this movie was a swimming pool, you’d be absolutely drowning in boobs. It’s too much.

V/H/SV/H/S is a compilation of horror shorts done by various directors. There’s no consolidated theme aside from the “tie it all together” main story. A bunch of crooks are hired by an anonymous person to burgle someone’s house and make off with a single VHS cassette. While they’re searching, they discover a dead body sitting in front of a bunch of TVs, which are surrounded by dozens of VHS cassettes. While they search through them, you get to see the shorts.

The acting is on par with B-horror movie shockumentaries. I can personally guarantee that you won’t like anyone, and that everyone you see will probably die or kill someone or be involved in killing someone. Sometimes it’s predictable, sometimes it isn’t. That’s the benefit of having a bunch of shorts as opposed to one long movie.

V/H/SAt this point, you’re probably thinking either, “I’d watch this because it sounds so bad it must be bad-good,” or, “I have better things to do with my life.” I won’t say V/H/S is a good movie, but it’s both interesting and scary. It feels like you’re watching a compilation of urban legends in the making. The effects, which are consolidated into one “camera visual glitch” category, do what they’re meant to do and don’t overshoot their bounds. The video quality’s going to be low and shaky, but that’s the shockumentary genre for you.

Speaking of genre, the shorts are quite varied, each encompassing a different malevolent entity. In one, a cult. In another, a monster disguised as a human. In yet another, just a person. It keeps you guessing, though the first view will be highly disorienting because of the lack of continuity and forgettable characters.

I’ll toss you some cliff notes before stapling on the alternate review. V/H/S is interesting and scary, enough so that you won’t feel like you’re wading through tits and f-bombs and excessive gore. You will be, but you’ll be distracted, so it all works out in the end. Hopefully I’m not setting you up for disappointment. I don’t think I am.

V/H/SStacey Buchanan of Horror-Movies.ca spoke highly of V/H/S, which is actually kinda throwing me for a loop. I couldn’t tell you if it deserved the 4.5/5 stars she gave it, but I can say that the dull parts of the movie don’t last very long. Hell, if you like it for one short, then the movie’s done its job. Here’s the review link: http://www.horror-movies.ca/2012/05/vhs-review/