Count Gore De Vol's Screaming Room

With Lady Pam De Graff

Lady Pam De GraffOCULUS (2013)
WRITTEN BY: Mike Flanagan
DIRECTED BY: Jeff Howard, Jeff Seidman, and Mike Flanagan
FEATURING: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty

PLOT: A young woman and her brother attempt to unravel the enigma of an hallucinatory mirror which drives its owners to psychosis and suicide.


COMMENTS: Years after their parents went crazy and embarked on a murderous rampage, sister and brother duo Kaylie and Tim (Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites) locate the cursed object responsible. It's an antique mirror which drives it's owners into a surreal psychotic world where hallucinations become reality, and from which the only deliverance is gruesome self-destruction.





We've seen horror movies featuring malignant mirrors before. 1990 brought us Mirror Mirror, about a possessed looking glass which grants malevolent wishes, but extols a deadly price. In 2007, Dark Mirror (formerly reviewed here) introduces a mirror which channels body-snatching demons from another dimension. Mirrors II (2010) a rare sequel which is much more scary and better conceived than its predecessor, further explores the concept of Mirrors (2008), in which mirrors trap peoples' souls, and allow them to stalk us from any reflective surface.


In all of these films, mirrors serve as doorways to the dark side, be it another dimension, the afterlife, or hell. We've also seen this concept explored with works of art taking the place of reflective glass, in Dario Argento's 1996 effort, The Stendhal Syndrome, and in its grade B and over the top yet intriguing knockoff, The Portal (2010).

Now independent writer/director Mike Flanagan has added his own morbid twist to the tradition. Flanagan is well suited to bring us a mind-bender about parallel planes, doorways to the other side, and portals to monstrosity and madness. He wrote and directed the offbeat micro-budget thriller Absentia (2011 -you first read about it here in The Screaming Room), about a pedestrian tunnel through which an unnameable predator channels the unwary backwards and forwards in time, dragging them to and from its abominable other-world.



In Oculus, Flanagan has found his groove as a mainstream filmmaker, producing a glossy, first rate fright flick. Perhaps most importantly, but not so frequently accomplished in horror, Oculus is actually scary. The story lures us into a twisted reality in which free will becomes an illusion when it's based on faulty premises. As an heirloom looking glass tricks its beholders by infiltrating their thoughts, distorting their perceptions, and bending their wills, it kills not only its owners, but wrecks periphery lives as well.



In Oculus, the looking glass's tricks don't just work on its victims. Flanagan turns the premise on the audience as well, manipulating the malleable and subjective nature of human consciousness to inflict chills which are superior to those wrought by mere splatter and superficial shocks. As viewers, we perpetually scramble throughout the story to keep track of the slender boundary between fantasy and reality, clutching it, losing it, clasping at it again, only to discover that we've been fooled.



Along the way, we keep looking over our shoulders for a monster to appear. That one never does leaves us feeling pent-up and on edge. That is, until we realize that Oculus is about the shakiness and unreliability of subjectivity, how our worst fears are often an extension of our own insecurities, and how even the routine of watching a horror movie indicts our tenuous processes of interpretation and how we decide what reality is.

For the monster is not in the mirror. It is inside us.


You Can stream this movie on Amazon Here!

Lady Pam De GraffWAKE WOOD (2010) UK - Hammer
WRITTEN BY: Brendan McCarthy
DIRECTED BY: David Keating
FEATURING: Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon

PLOT: The distraught parents of a dead girl bring her back to life in a gruesome Celtic ritual. What could possibly go wrong?


COMMENTS: Hammer is back. After presenting the 20 episode Beyond The Grave web series in 2008, the studio is making a gradual return to feature length motion pictures with the 2010 Let Me In, and in 2011, The Resident (formerly reviewed here.) Hammer's latest release is a reanimation tale called Wake Wood.





In Wake Wood, grieving parents Patrick and Louis (Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle), of a dead child (Ella Connolly), move to a spooky Irish backwater hamlet (really, since the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, with which every single movie set anywhere in the UK and featuring any smattering of paganism or witchcraft is compared, is there any other kind?) Of course the locals seem a bit odd. That's de riguer in a horror story about outsiders relocating to an off-the-charts remote village. But these locals really are a bit odd. Some of them are dead and reanimated!



Patrick and Louise don't know this yet, but they figure it out after observing some residents' strange behaviors and then spying on a gruesome pagan reanimation ritual. Despondent and morose beyond reason, the couple jumps for the brass coffin ring when their neighbors offer them an opportunity to bring back their deceased Alice.

And what more appropriate setting for such a thing?



Wake Wood is a loamy, rainy agrarian community, dotted with spinning wind turbines, awash with themes of rotating cycles and both the metaphorical and literal blood of birth and death. There is the sowing and scything of crops, livestock deliveries and slaughterings, the turning of the seasons which are the only markers for the passage of time for an insular population so tied to the land that they never leave the community for any reason. This foreboding, soaking countryside, saturated in perpetual overcast, gloomily roots itself in a two thousand year heritage of bloody Celtic sacrament. It's within this chilly ambiance that Patrick and Louise proceed in shocking style, robbing their daughter's grave to snatch bits of her decayed flesh required for the ceremony. They brace themselves for little Alice's rebirth following her reformative incubation inside the partially barbecued corpse of a freshly dead field hand.

There's just one hitch.

Little Alice isn't quite right.

Some small detail of the formula went awry, a miniscule snag in the threads of the veil between this world and the next has thrown Alice's resurrection askew. While the fault is not immediately apparent, it spreads its icy fingers asunder like a fracture on a frozen lake, and soon both Alice's parents and everybody in Wake Wood Finds themselves on thin ice.


Wake Wood doesn't break new ground. Eva Birthistle is already a veteran to the cinema of juvenile transgression, having starred in the 2008 movie, The Children (previously reviewed here) about kids gone homicidally insane. Wake Wood's central concept bears a strong resemblance to Pet Sematery (1989), in which the planned reanimation of a lost toddler goes horribly awry, to the 1973 Don't Look Now, about a troubled couple's contact with their young daughter on the other side of the grave, and to Grace (2009) about a failed pregnancy and a putrescent infant with a thirst for blood. Wake Wood brings its own Gothically visceral obliquity to the concept. It strength lies in not getting bogged down in how or why, focusing instead on consequence, and the conflicts arising when those involved try to overcome them. Wake Wood accomplishes this end with every bit of corpse-crunching sepulchral grisliness that you expect from a Hammer production, before topping itself with a delightfully perverse twist, as morbid as bloody icing on a funeral cake.



You can also watch this movie streaming on Amazon HERE!

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