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   Short Film Critique: 

Mike Flanagan
   Expected Rating: R due to language and                                intensity of content
   Distribution: No Exclusive Distribution
   Budget: $2,000
   Genre: Horror

   Running Time: 32 minutes

   Release Dates: March 3, 2006
   Review Date: May 15, 2006
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan
Final Score:
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I can clearly remember my initial experiences with horror movies. The first one occurred when I was about four years old, watching some weird film on TV with my mother about a skinny girl with long, straight, light-colored hair was walking around covered in red paint (well, to my young mind it was red paint) while a building burned behind her. I asked my mom what it was. "Carrie," she replied. "Hey! That's my name too!" I said with a grin, more impressed by the character's name than anything else. Needless to say, it didn't scare me much (although that was more due to the fact that I didn't understand it!) It wasn't until eight years later that I got back into these films with classics like the original Invisible Man and The Fly, which freaked me out for some reason.

The most memorable experience I had was when I went to see the Blair Witch Project, which, at the time, hadn't yet been definitively proven false. I almost didn't make it through the movie, I was so scared. I remember gripping the sides of my seat thinking, "If this isn't over soon, I'm getting up and leaving." For me, the thing that made it so scary was the implied elements of terror that built up suspense; the characters find all of the marks and indicators that they will die like the victims they've studied. I kept expecting some sort of bloody Boogeyman to jump out from behind a tree and start hacking everyone apart. It never happened, but the suspense and tension were so thick it was almost palpable. It took me quite awhile to shake off that experience.

Now, several years and many films later, I came across Oculus, from director Mike Flanagan, and again felt that almost tangible apprehension and delicious terror.

The story of Oculus is that of Tim Russel (played by Livelihood's Scott Graham), an obsessed researcher conducting a potentially fatal experiment. He has located and obtained a large, ornate mirror that once belonged to his parents, and which he believes is in some insidious way responsible for their deaths, as well as the horrific deaths of the rest of its previous owners. To prove his theory, he locks himself in a bare room with the mirror, three video cameras and monitors, food, water, a few alarm clocks, and two phones (a cell and a land line). Then he waits.

As the film progresses, Tim's initial determined rationality... way more and
more to tipsy giddiness.

As he waits, he begins to explain to the cameras the history of the mirror and what happened to each of its owners: one dies of dehydration while sitting in a tub full of water for three days, another shatters her own bones with a hammer, another chews through a live electrical wire… the list goes on and on. As time creeps by (we're never sure exactly how much time passes), Tim conducts various experiments to "test" the mirror, but in spite of all of the numerous precautions he's taken, we see him slowly descend into delusion before finally succumbing to the mirror himself.

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