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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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John of Monte Corvino: At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. 
<p>John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John traveled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. </p><p>Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. </p><p>John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. </p><p>Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighboring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. </p><p>When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.</p> American Catholic Blog We look ahead to the coming of the Son of Man, standing erect and with heads held high. We live in hope, not in fear. Our experience of God is no longer limited by human weakness or even human sinfulness. God has always been one step ahead of us, with a plan that exceeds our greatest desires.

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