It’s been a topsy-turvy year, one that really gets me reflecting on the important things in life. All things considered, I have a lot to be thankful for. Like most of you out there, I spent Thanksgiving with a good bottle of wine, a steaming turkey, and biting down on broken dishes and light bulbs… okay, maybe not that last part, which was just a shameless segue into this week’s movie: Oculus.
Oh, I know, the obvious choice for Thanksgiving would be Eli Roth’s 2007 Grindhouse short entitled Thanksgiving, which appeared before Death Proof, but I’ll keep it a family show. That said, if you are curious, go ahead and look it up. Be warned, it is adult content; hilarious, but very adult.
THE MOVIE: Oculus (2014)
I have a soft spot for psychological/supernatural thrillers and, if you haven’t seen Oculus, I recommend you give it a try.
Why see a movie about an evil mirror? Good question. At face value, you may be thinking o O (the plot of Oculus is dumb, how could a mirror have an agenda?). To that I say that the mirror has the same agenda as the shark in Jaws.
Hold on… this would hardly be the first mirror-based story you’ve read or seen. Be it the Greek myth of Narcissus enchanted by his reflection, Snow White’s Evil Queen whispering “Mirror, Mirror on the wall…,” Bloody Mary, or the Candyman staring back at you, mirrors have captivated mankind for thousands of years.
Oculus puts a grand, Lovecraftian spin on a classic culprit: the mirror (AKA your own reflection).
We start with 12 and 10 year old (respectively) Kaylie (Annalise Basso: True Blood, Captain Fantastic) and her brother, Tim (Garret Ryan: Insidious 2 and 3), being hunted by their father, Allen (Rory Cochrane: Argo, Black Mass).
Flash forward 11 years.
Tim (now Brenton Thwaites: Maleficent, Gods of Egypt (but we’ll forgive him for it)) is being released from a mental institution where he has spent the last 11 years due to paranoid delusions and the killing of his father. He has now come to terms with what happened, convincing himself it couldn’t have possibly been real. Kaylie (now Karen Gillen: winner of Empire Awards Best Female Newcomer for Oculus, Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), on the other hand has devoted her life to proving her father wasn’t just some psycho who tortured and killed her mother, Marie (Katee Sackhoff: winner of the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Supporting Actress for Oculus, Battlestar Galactica, Riddick), and tried to kill her and Tim.
Kaylie essentially tracks down and steals the mirror from an auction house, and has it installed in her now vacant childhood home. Why the hell would she try to recreate the worst moment in her and Tim’s lives? Pay back. She has traced the mirror back to its 100 year old roots in Germany and the gruesome events that befell each family or business that owned the mirror since then, all strikingly similar to what happened to her own family. With the help of her recently mentally-well brother, Kaylie sets out to document and ultimately destroy the mirror that destroyed their lives. The problem is, even though she has prepared for every form of retaliation, there is a difference between reading about it and suffering through the mind-bending, horrifying assault brought on by a supernatural force she cannot understand.
I have a soft spot for psychological/supernatural thrillers, and this is a good one. A really good one.
Director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald’s Game) originally wanted Oculus to be told through a series of short stories, in fact, the full-length movie is based off of a 2005 short entitled Oculus: Chapter 3. Personally, I think his decision to twist all of the segmented pieces (and timelines) together was genius. H.P. Lovecraft may not be everyone’s cup of absinthe, but this is a movie about a mirror that drains energy, psychically attacks victims, and devours souls. Weird is the way to go.
Back to the Jaws reference. In a 2014 interview with Den of Geek, Flanagan said, “I got into Lovecraft in a big way and that idea of kind of this other world just beyond the veil of ours that defies understanding and doesn’t need a back story and an explanation, you know — like this is an alien force that if you even were to try to comprehend it completely it would drive you mad. I thought that was scarier than anything.”
Oculus was also produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, The Visit, and Incarnate).
I was watching Cabin in the Woods last night, and thought about the old trope of ignoring signs and inviting evil in. There is a moment where Allen and Marie are arguing over whether to keep the grandiose mirror, with Allen insisting he would have been happy with Ikea and Marie saying the mirror classed up the house. After reading Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, I’m not sure if Ikea would have been much better.
See this movie. It will blow your mind.
THE WINE: Boar Doe (Love the name)
Red Blend (2013) (Washington)
About $13.00 a bottle.
For our Ghost Night Thanksgiving, we went traditional… as traditional as my wife goes, anyhow. The perfectly cooked turkey was brined in a bourbon/maple concoction for a day or so, and complimented by a bourbon-infused gravy for the homemade stuffing and garlic mashed potatoes.
As a rule, there is no “right” wine pairing for Thanksgiving due to the typical variety of foods put out. The point is to choose a good wine that will be somewhat universal. Your best bet is to go with a fruity Pinot Noir for those of you looking forward to Christmas. I, on the other hand, chose a red blend to match the strong flavors of bourbon, maple, garlic, etc.
A combination of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, this blend was a smooth hit at the table. It wasn’t overly heavy, but stood up as a sipping wine that complimented the other flavors in the mix. The profile was of jammy, dark berries up front and cedar and tobacco on the back of the mouth. Smooth and lasting, the finish was amazing and I was sorry to finish off the bottle.