Oculus

Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Phantom of the Paradise Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a musician and songwriter hoping to make it big, but his efforts to get his work noticed by the infamous producer and personality, Swan (Paul Williams), results in trouble. Swan hears, loves, and steals Winslow’s music leaving the artist deranged and badly burned in the process, but Winslow returns behind a mask to wreak havoc on the man’s hot new club. Toss in a thief of another kind, a dame named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) who steals Winslow’s heart, and the stage is set for tragedy. It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, part comedy and part musical, and it had to have been clear from the outset that it was not going to find a home with general audiences. It also has some not so subtle critiques for both sides of the entertainment industry, from the selfish cruelties of corporate interests to talent who are accepting of it all in search of fame of fortune. The message never gets in the way of the zaniness or the musical numbers though. There are some new extras here as well as ones ported over from Arrow Video’s recent Blu, and the best supplement remains Guillermo de Toro interviewing/chatting with Williams. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, making of, alternate takes, outtakes, trailer, gallery]

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Oculus-Tims

Normally I would wait until the end of the year to start the For Your Consideration posts, but the campaign for Oculus could use the extra time. The challenge isn’t so much the fact that horror movies are rarely recognized by the Academy and other major awards groups as it is that imperfect horror movies don’t stand much of a chance at all. Oculus is really good, enough to make me recommend it, and I’m known for being very, very picky with the genre, but it’s no Psycho or The Exorcist. It doesn’t deserve a Best Picture nod, nor one for Best Director. It’s not outstanding enough in any categories, really, except for editing. And many other critics are noting this quality, albeit not so much with kudos in mind, so let me be the first to recommend it be nominated for the Oscar. Even this far in advance, I’m doubting the likelihood of rallying enough support for this cause. Even if I could, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway. This isn’t the sort of film that the Academy honors. If it were, it’d still have to have some other things going for it. Better writing, noteworthy performances, a director with more prestige, these would all help it but they’re just not there. It won’t have the box office success to lift its notoriety, either. It’s pretty rare these days for any movie to be nominated for Best Editing without being represented in some other top tier categories, and usually Best […]

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Mirror Trick in Poltergeist 3

“Carol Anne! Carol Anne! Bruce! Bruce! Patricia! Patricia! Carol Anne! Bruce!” One of the funniest episodes of Siskel & Ebert features their dialogue-mocking review of Poltergeist III, which is one of my all-time biggest guilty pleasures. I love the way Gene chimes in when Roger says he hopes the residents of the John Hancock Center got free tickets (“I hope they didn’t.”). It’s a silly take on a ridiculous movie, the second sequel to what I believe to be one of the greatest horror films ever made. My esteem for the first Poltergeist is not why I’ve always had a soft spot for Poltergeist III. I hated Poltergeist II: The Other Side as a kid, yet I latched onto the next installment with immense fascination and fear. Partly it was the state-of-the-art skyscraper setting, which my 11-year-old self believed to be an inspired choice (the 13-year-old me would go on to accept Gremlins 2: The New Batch as a better use of such a location). Mostly, though, it’s always been the creepy mirror tricks that make me an unapologetic fan. The magic of the looking glass and reflections in general have been of interest to storytellers for millennia, especially for the way they provoke an idea of another, near-identical universe visible and approachable through a kind of window or portal. Sometimes there’s wonder to the idea, as in Lewis Carroll’s stories of Alice, but more often it seems to be the stuff of horror, especially on the big screen. Yet another scary movie […]

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Karen Gillan in OCULUS

Editor’s note: Our review of Oculus originally ran during this year’s SXSW, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theaters this weekend. Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is getting out of the mental hospital because he’s finally been cured. He no longer believes an evil mirror possessed his parents when he was a child leading to his father (Rory Cochrane) murdering his mother (Katee Sackhoff) before being shot down by little Timmy’s own hand. He knows better now and agrees that his dad simply went nuts. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has stated as such all along and went on to grow up, find a career, and fall in love. But when she picks him up Kaylie makes it clear that the two of them can now put the revenge she’s been planning into action. She’s found the mirror, she’s tracked its deadly history across the centuries, and she has a foolproof plan to prove to the world that their parents were victims of this cursed piece of glass. The only problem with a foolproof plan is that somebody has to play the fool, and in this case it just may be Kaylie. Oculus is “mirror horror” with a bit of an initial twist in that our characters know all there is to know about this wicked antique before the movie starts. They’re prepped and prepared, and the film’s first act is a setup that includes her plans and a litany of the mirror’s past evil deeds. The […]

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Karen-Gillan-in-Oculus-2013-Movie-Image

On Doctor Who, Karen Gillan played Amy Pond, known as “the girl who waited.” That label stemmed from her first episode of the British sci-fi series, in which the title character showed up in her backyard with his TARDIS — a time machine in the form of an old, blue British police box — and invited a 7-year-old Pond to be his traveling companion. But then he didn’t return to pick her up for over a decade. The actress has had better luck with her own promise of travel and adventure, starting out as a model before landing roles on UK television straight out of drama school, including that prime gig on the internationally popular Doctor Who program. From there, she didn’t have long to wait before a movie career whisked her away to Hollywood. And as it turns out, her initial means of coming to America also involved a man with something resembling an old, blue British police box. “I was in my childhood bedroom in Scotland,” she explains about her first Skype meeting with Mike Flanagan, who directed her in her first gig in the U.S., the creepy, cleverly edited new horror movie Oculus. “And he took a swig of coffee out of a TARDIS mug, which made me realize I had a good chance of getting it.”

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Oculus Movie 2014

Creepy children and poetry. Few things are more terrifying, and the Oculus teaser trailer makes full use of them, although the end result isn’t exactly scary. More off-putting. A mild irritation. The movie from Mike Flanagan is a feature-length extension of his short of the same name. Both deal with a mystery mirror, but the new film seems to have dropped the clinical POV style for something that more resembles the Big Scary House of Insidious. That they share a producer won’t be a surprise. So, same mirror, different story. In this one, Karen Gillan stars as a woman trying to get her brother off the hook for a crime by proving to the authorities that a demon mirror did it. A lot of potential here (particularly because critics at Sundance praised its originality and clever hooks), but it may not be revealed until we get a full trailer.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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