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Oculus: Scary but Forgettable Horror Flick
Expanding from his 2006 short film, Oculus: Chapter 3- The Man with a Plan, director Mike Flanagan – along with help from writer Jeff Howard – approaches the subject of the supernatural with a considerable amount of imagination and manages to deliver some scares in the relatively unnerving ghostly thriller, Oculus.
The story follows the troubled lives of Tim (Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (Gillan); a pair of siblings who witnessed the brutal death of their parents over a decade ago. Tim is convicted of the murders and is sent into protective custody and a psychiatric hospital, while Kaylie remains in a pit of despair without her family.
Years later, Tim is released on his twenty-first birthday and is now looking to rebuild his life and move away from his turbulent past. However, Kaylie has become convinced her brother was innocent and that something unnatural is at play.
Kaylie, who works at an auction house, has recently come across the very same oversized, 400 year-old mirror that she believes is responsible for their parents' deaths. Moving back to their old house and installing surveillance equipment, Kaylie and Tim hope to record evidence of the supernatural being.
A Blumhouse Productions creation – the same people who brought you Paranormal Activity – Oculus, as luck would have it, steers clear of the increasingly overdone found-footage approach, despite what its trailer might suggest. Instead, director Mike Flanagan seems inspired by the horror films of the 70's and 80's, like recent flicks, The Conjuring and Sinister, and paints the mood of the film with a slow-burning tone of dread and an ominous fear of the unknown. The film transitions between the past and present wonderfully, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Gillan, the Scottish-born actress known for her role in TV's Doctor Who, proves to be a relatively solid lead and manages to paint Kaylie with an equal blend of self-determination and fear, while Thwaites' doe-eyed qualities comes across as a little too sappy.
Sadly, Oculus is not without faults. The film is never fully realised as a story and although it provides its share of scare, it's all really rather forgettable.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Don’t be fooled by Shut In’s relatively intense and spooky trailer; the final product is unfortunately, everything that its trailer is not. Directed by Farren Blackburn – see Hammer of Gods - this haunted house thriller of the wearisome is-she-crazy-or-is-she-not variety finds itself completely devoid of any suspense or story, resulting in one of the most painful and unexciting movie going experiences of the year thus far.
The story is set in rural Maine and revolves around child psychologist, Mary Portman (Watts wondering how the heck she managed to get roped into this mess), who is struggling to get over the loss of her husband who was killed in a horrific car accident some time ago. Left alone to take care of their teenage son, Stephen (Charlie Heaton from Stranger Things ), who was also in the accident and was left paralyzed from the neck down and unable to talk, Mary tries to do the best she can and to go about her duties as compliantly and passively as possible.
However, the pressure of taking care of him alone is slowly getting to Mary who tries to find some sort of comfort and solace from her regular Skype sessions with fellow shrink, Wilson (Platt). Her life is soon turned upside down when one of her troubled patients, a young deaf foster kid named Tom (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), shows up at her doorstep late one night before quickly disappearing into the cold without a trace. Wrecked with guilt, Mary soon begins to see evidence of Tom in the house; unable to differentiate between reality and her nightmares, her mind soon begins to play dangerous tricks on her, forcing Mary to believe that there is something else entirely at play here.
Told with an unintentional sense of preposterousness and accompanied by an obscenely sluggish tempo, instead of concentrating on building its own story and generating genuine tension, wastes time borrowing ideas from other, better-executed films. Attempting to ignite chills and creeps through a series of predictable and terribly clichéd jump scares, the story fails to excite, offering very little suspense, energy or reason for the viewer to get invested in its characters. Even the talented Naomi Watts can’t make up for its laundry-list of problems, while Room sensation Jacob Tremblay is disappointingly wasted in his role of Tom.
While the idea may have read well on paper, Shut In’s execution is dreadfully ineffective; uneventful, boring and a total of waste of both time and talent, watching Shut In is just as exciting as watching paint dry. No fun at all.