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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Oculus

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites star in a scene from the movie "Oculus."
But the mayhem wreaked by the malevolent haunted looking-glass at the center of director and co-writer Mike Flanagan's chiller "Oculus" (Relativity) puts such ordinary shivers in the shade.

The good news is that brains trump bloodshed in Flanagan and Jeff Howard's screenplay, making this generally enjoyable horror exercise acceptable for most mature moviegoers.

A decade after being put away for murdering his father, Alan (Rory Cochrane), troubled youth Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is released from an asylum upon turning 21, based in large part on his recent willingness to accept responsibility for his dad's death after years of denial. Once free, however, Tim reunites with his sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who has a far different memory of what happened—one that matches Tim's original, seemingly outlandish, explanation of events.

Both Alan and their mom, Marie (Katee Sackhoff), Kaylie insists, were subject to the accursed influence emanating from an antique mirror Alan had purchased to adorn his home office. Capable of withering plants and sickening the family dog, the glass also could bewilder its human prey, leading to obsessive, destructive behavior and even to fatal violence against loved ones. The casualties of its reign of terror eventually included not only Alan, but Marie as well.

Tim's release comes at a propitious moment; Kaylie, who works in an auction house, has managed to track the mirror down and gain temporary possession of it. After documenting its supernatural powers on videotape, she intends to destroy it. Somewhat reluctantly, Tim agrees to help.

Suspense builds as Tim wavers between belief in Kaylie's account and fidelity to the more rational theory he was pressured to accept by his psychiatrist—and as scenes from the present are intercut with unfolding details from the past. (Garrett Ryan plays the youthful Tim and Annalise Basso the young Kaylie.)

The blurring of the line between reality and illusion that the mirror manages to effect sometimes leads to confusion for the audience as well as the characters. And at least some adults may be put off by the sight of young kids being subjected to sustained terror. Still, by comparison to the innumerable fright flicks that substitute the merely repellant for the genuinely scary, "Oculus" is a lesson in restraint.

The film contains considerable gory violence, some of it directed at children, a nongraphic marital bedroom scene, a few uses of profanity, a couple of rough terms and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog We all have fears, but we don’t have to be afraid. Jesus is always with us to protect us and give us courage. We only have to remember that the battle is the Lord’s. When Jesus gives us the victory, let’s be sure to thank Him and praise Him for what He has done.

 
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