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By Shane M. Dallmann


Well, we’re a quarter of the way into the year and so far the horror genre has only given us a couple of “found-footage” leftovers… one utterly wretched (DEVIL’S DUE) and one that surprised me by NOT being utterly wretched (P.A.: THE MARKED ONES). But NOW we’ve got our first serious contender… and despite the “from the folks who brought you” hype, it is not, repeat, NOT a found-footage movie.

Now 21, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) has been discharged from the mental hospital he’s been in since the age of 10, having been deemed cured of the supernatural obsessions that haunted him since the traumatic deaths of his parents (one of which he was held accountable for). And (slightly) older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan), having benefited enormously from her inheritance of the estate, welcomes him back with open arms… only to remind him that now it’s time to deal with the evil antique mirror that THEY held responsible for the tragedy all those years ago…

Kaylie isn’t fooling around or taking any chances… she’s gone to great lengths to re-obtain the mirror and she’s set up a super-elaborate video experiment with which she intends to, essentially, catch the mirror “in the act,” having obsessively researched its historical chain of mayhem. The experiment takes place in the house in which the children grew up (or at least tried to)… and the contemporary story alternates with flashbacks in which the younger Kaylie and Tim (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan) endure the increasingly distressing events leading up to the supposed double-homicide of their parents (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane)… as the line between the tales slowly disintegrates. But is the mirror really supernaturally evil? Or is Kaylie herself the one who’s completely, utterly delusional?

Simply put, it would be very wrong of me to continue in this direction. OCULUS (an expansion of a short film unseen by me) isn’t the theatrical debut of experienced television director Mike Flanagan, but now I want to see his earlier ABSENTIA and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. This one held my attention from the very beginning… skilled suspense direction and convincing performances by all are enhanced by grim, hard-hitting violence (not to mention some truly excruciating individual shock moments… cough–staple remover–cough cough) while the curtain of uncertainty continues to hang deeply and heavily.

Yeah. NOW we’re talking HORROR.

(And on a side note, I see that this was partially a WWE production and the first, if I’m not completely mistaken, to not feature a single wrestler even in a supporting role… I guess they took it seriously when THE CALL became their biggest hit to date and knew just which thriller to throw down for next!)

Gauntlet thrown… top THIS, horror year 2014!