The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 25, 2014

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Movie Poster - Oculus

Mirror, mirror, on the wall
By Dom Cioffi
My grandmother lived to be 103 years old.
When you live that long you tend to acquire a lot of things, and she was no exception.
She lived in a large farmhouse that was passed through generations so by default it contained copious amounts of "stuff." And like any collection of stuff, some of it was valuable and some of it was junk.
But on the whole, my grandmother's home was filled with a generous number of items that any antique dealer would have coveted (my grandfather, not surprisingly, was responsible for the lesser quality items like the endless supply of coffee cans filled with nuts and bolts and the small cache of lawn mowers that lined a back wall in the barn).
I remember being told that a candlestick holder that stood in the upstairs hallway was particularly valuable since it predated electricity. You wouldn't have looked twice if you walked by, but apparently selling it would have funded a year-long vacation.
There was also a highly-prized family bible that adorned a table in the front foyer. This was a beautiful manuscript that, even as a young child, I handled with the utmost care, sensing its unique stature in the house.
My grandmother loved carnival glass (mold-pressed glass that has an iridescent coating) and had a number of pieces that other collectors had made generous offers on. She told me once that if the house ever caught fire she'd grab the carnival glass collection first.
Several of the furniture pieces were also of great value, including an extremely old hutch, a finely-crafted desk with numerous secret compartments, an antique sleigh bed, and several period chairs.
I remember finding out that a painting of a bowl of fruit that hung in the dining room turned out to be from a very famous New England artist. Its appraised value startled me not only due to the high number, but also because I had often remarked how dull an uninteresting it was.
Out of everything in the house, however, the one item that provided the most allure to me was a small cannonball that propped open the door to the living room.
It was a nondescript ball of lead, no bigger than a softball, that had turned dark brown in color. Picking it up always confused your brain because it was much heavier than its size suggested.
The ancient piece of artillery was dated to the Revolutionary War and had come to find a place in my grandmother's home after my grandfather tripped over it in a nearby field one spring. Apparently the frost heaves had allowed it to surface after being buried for nearly two hundred years.
My grandparent's did some research and discovered that an old thruway called the Crown Point Road had once run through their now fertile farmland. My grandfather surmised that the cannonball probably fell off the back of a horse-drawn cart as it traveled over the bumpy road en route to battle.
After my grandmother passed away, her belongings were scattered amongst the family. I know where a few things landed, but have lost track of most.
Thankfully, just before she moved out and relocated to a retirement home, I walked through the house with a video camera, taking note of her beloved home and the unique items that adorned it (now if I could just located that videotape).
In this week's feature, "Oculus," we follow the strange path of an antique mirror (one that would have looked quite at home in my grandmother's house) that has wreaked havoc on anyone who has ever made the mistake of hanging it in their home.
I've seen a lot of horror films over the years, but this is the first one that has revolved around a piece of furniture. And while it was a unique angle for a storyline, the mirror ultimately never did anything except cause nearby victims to hallucinate.
This film wanted to be an intense psychological thriller, but failed in that it took too many liberties (i.e. you never knew when someone was hallucinating during a scene or actually living it). That schtick got old after a while because it allowed for way too much theatrical mind-twisting instead of genuine storytelling.
There's a lot of insanity floating around this picture, making it really hard to tell who's running the show. Despite the best efforts of a young cast, "Oculus" simply became too convoluted to ever get me on board.
Check this one out if you enjoy stories with a schizophrenic edge. Otherwise save your theater dollars for more substantial fare.
A reflective "C+" for "Oculus."
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him