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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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