Oculus–Movie Review



Tim Russell is set free from a state mental institution at the age of 21. It seems that when he was young Tim shot his psycho father to death after the torture and murder of his mother (Katee Sackhoff, Riddick). Tim’s father, Alan (Rory Cochrane, Argo) was also set on killing Tim and his older sister, Kaylie. The tables obviously turned. Or so the staff of the institute wants Tim to believe.

Tim’s sister on the other hand, believes that an antique mirror that hung in his their father’s home office is cursed. The events that lead to that tragic night when the two lost their parents, wasn’t their fathers fault; it was the influence of the supernatural force living within the mirror. That night a pact was made between the children that when they grow up that they would kill whatever lives in the mirror. Going through foster care, Kaylie, obsessed over it all. After leaving the system she got a job with an antique dealer with the hopes that the mirror would find itself there. It does.

She sets up cameras, computers, and a huge anchor that’s ready to come swinging from the ceiling down upon the mirror at the right moment in her father’s old office. She hopes to collect evidence of the mirror’s supernatural influence before destroying it once and for all. She had already researched the mirror’s blood path that lead up to her family’s destruction. But, Tim isn’t buying any of it. He believes that their father went insane and killed their mother and he was going to kill them.

A few years ago a group of friends on the lowest rung of the film industry’s ladder decided to make a film to show off their respective talents. With the help of Kickstarter, the film went on to great success, winning praise from audiences and critics alike. In fact here’s my review from my Killerfilm.com days (http://www.killerfilm.com/film_reviews/read/absentia-dvd-review-100406). That film was called Absentia. I knew there would be good things to come for its director, Mike Flanagan ; but, I didn’t actually expect his next feature would make it to the big screen. Good on him. And, good on us that he delivers another great horror flick.

The film starts with a rather calm tone, but builds tension with flashbacks to the events that lead to the deadly night. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the scenes of the past and the present are mirroring each other. Nice narrative pun there, Mike! There’s a sudden acceleration of tension as soon as Tim starts to believe in Kaylie’s memory of the past events. I loved that I was steadily pulled into the film as it went on. Scares come in the second half of the film, but the gradual rising tension keeps the interest alive in the first part.

What also keeps interest alive is the acting by the four thespians that perform as Tim and Kaylie, both as adults and as children. The adults are played by Brenton Thwaites (Tim) and Karen Gillan (Kaylie); and the children are played by Garrett Ryan (Tim) and Annalise Basso (Kaylie). Along with being well written characters, the foursome keeps a believable tone to the siblings’ relationship with each other throughout the film. But, it should be noted that Karen Gillian is the standout here. This is evidence of both great and intelligent acting and writing. In truth, it’s this that holds this film together. It’s a pretty solid foundation.


At this point, I’d be secure in saying that this flick does better Flanagan’s Absentia. But, that film was so good it’s only by a nose. But, there’s no question that this is a best horror film I’ve seen this year.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Jinn (2014)–film review


I hadn’t even heard of this film until I saw this TV spot above about a week or so ago. And, with this quick look this film appeared to be one of those films you simply don’t see on the big screen anymore. It used to be commonplace to see true indy films of all genres at your local theater. That pretty much died out in the late 1980s. All those types of film go direct to video. And, even though this flick does have one of the current looks of a D-T-V feature, it was good to see something like it at my local theater.

The film begins in India in the very early part of the 20th century. A man and his descendants are cursed by a Jinn who had kidnapped a girl that the man tries to rescue. This is a very good scene. It was the first of many well-crafted supernatural horror scenes. These parts are the best element of the film to be sure. Everywhere to the editing, sound design, camera work, and the effects (practical and CGI) are at their respective bests.

The film then zooms forward to modern day Ann Arbor, Michigan. There we find Shawn (Dominic Rains, General Hospital), an automotive designer and a descendant to the man from the beginning. He and his wife (played by Serinda Swan, Graceland) are just starting to notice odd things happening. The creepiest of these was a silhouette of a man in a window across from where the couple lives that never seems to move.

Shawn then receives a video tape with a message from his father who died when Shawn was a child. The message is a warning of an approaching doom; the message is sent with the hope he can avert this fate. Shawn is then contacted by man named Gabriel (Ray Park, X-Men), a priest played by William Atherton (Ghostbusters), and a man in an insane asylum (Faran Tahir, Star Trek-2009), who all have come aid in his predicament. They knew his father and his trials with the Jinn. With any doubts regarding the existence of a supernatural creature screwing with his life shattered after a run in with the title character, Shawn becomes game to illicit the help of these men.

There’s a lot of “good enough-s” in this film: the story is good enough; the lead actor is good enough; the scenes between the “good stuff” are good enough. I know some of my liking of this film is due to being able to see a genre film of its level in a theater again. But, I did in fact like this film. It’s really not very scary, but the writer-director, Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad does a very good job on those mentioned supernatural scenes. There’s some good mood, jolts, and images within these scenes.


The film also has some pretty nifty bits in it as well: there’s a dagger etched with a symbol that pays tribute to the three major religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; there’s a sequence that allows Ray Park to show off his martial art skills as he’s fighting off some Jinn-influenced mental patients; and, last but not least, a killer Camaro that goes by the name of Firebreather. This car was in the lobby of the Emagine Novi where I saw this film.


Now, this film isn’t any masterpiece. It’s just a good old fashioned drive-in theater popcorn munching movie. And, the world needs more these projected on a big screen.–Charles T. Cochran

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars