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April 14, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-14

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, April 14, 2014 -- 7A

AMC's 'Turn' to 1700s

"Ain't nobody got time for this!"
Stu nnig'Oculus'

Film calls upon
horror classics in
winning story
By SEAN CZARNECKI
Daily Arts Writer
This past weekend I had
forgotten my ID when I went to see
"Oculus" with some friends, and
the cashier told
me she could
not admit me.
It was against Oculus
policy to admit
anyone into an AtQuality 16
R-rated film and Rave
under the age Relativity Media
of 18 without a
legal guardian
after "bedtime." I am beardless
and skinny; I look like a child. I
have no ID and my friends, who
are younger and shorter than I,
must now argue on my behalf. Yep.
This is feeling 22. I start laughing.
Kids may buy tickets to watch
"Rio 2," but when no one is watch-
ing, they will steal away into the
theater to see what others would
protect them from. The fact I have
to grovel my way past security
confirms that our fascination in
horror and violence is still strong,
and our desire to "protect the
children"stronger yet. And "Ocu-
lus," a near masterpiece, demon-
strates'the ability of that genre to
lead us further into the territory
of madness in a well-structured,
well-executed story that tests and
violates your sensibilities.
Call "Oculus" the MacGyver of
horror. Like the "Saw" franchise
(a dumber concept), there is a
winding assembly of machines in
this film, and they are set going on
a clock right off the start.
Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites,
"Blue Lagoon: The Awakening") is
a man recently freed from a mental
institution, determined to split
himself from the past. As a child,
he shot dead his own philandering
father, whom the police called
a sick man in need of help. His
mother is also dead, driven to
insanity at the end of her life.

Tim is free to move on and
continue his healing process. But
his sister, Kaylie Russell (Karen
Gillan, TV's "Doctor Who"), has
other plans. To her, the guilty
party has yet to be revealed.
She believes their father was
not seduced by a woman, but by
something else: a mirror. A mirror
that possesses you and consumes
you. The siblings reunite at last,
and she has decided for the both
of them, they will destroy this
paranormal object.
The buildup to this showdown
takes time and energy, sometimes
overwrought, sometimes over-
dramatic, and you may wonder
whether there will be a payoff
- a pouring of gore (the money
shot) or at least a jump scare. It's
tedious, but you have to admire
the plot's mechanics (Despite the
really dumb-lookingghosts.)
The structure of this film is
almost untouchable. Much of the
plot operates through flashbacks.
Two timelines move parallel
to each other: the past and the
present. Writer-director Mike
Flanagan ("Absentia"), who based
this feature-length film on his
own short film "Oculus: Chapter
3", moves between these two
dimensions effortlessly. But the
mirror, a supernatural force, as
the tagline of the film puts it, only
lets you see what it wants you to
see. These two dimensions, past
and present, overlap. That the
brother's and sister's sense of
reality is also split from each other
only exacerbates the problem,
makes it more complex, and yes,
horrifying. This is perhaps the
film's most unsettling quality: the
mirror delineates reality.
All of the mirror's victims have
gazed into its reflection. You see
their yearning, an excruciating
sense of incompleteness, and they
want inside its image. Each time
reality is split, fissured, fractured
into shards, our dread grows.
The characters are fighting their
madness, kicking off its cloak
like they're trying to wake from
a nightmare, and the horror lies
in a realization: what have I done
while I was away?

The mirror itself, once brought
into the room, fills the atmosphere
with ghosts. By virtue of there
being a reflection, there is already
the added presence of unseen
observers. Horror films are most
electric with dread when we sense
eyes on our back. Their voyeurism
fills uswith premonition. And the
mirror is a great eye (an oculus)
that opens alternate realities,
ghosts that trace the curve of our
spines.
Two horror classics, "A
Nightmare on Elm Street" and
"The Shining" explored similar
themes of madness and reality
through the manipulation of
their physical and figurative
space of setting. Freddy Krueger,
a specter of a killer, bends and
reshapes the boundaries of the
dream and reality. You descend
into aplace whose horror depends
on the imagination of its villain.
The Torrance family wanders
the passageways of an immense
hotel. You lose your way and you
lose yourself. "Oculus," however,
brings you into the intimacy of a
home. Its killers are mothers and
fathers, brothers and sisters.
The visual culture of Japan
understands the terror of
mutation. The perversion of
nature, the Unnatural, repulses
our sensibilities. It goes against
our innate sense of what is
"correct." As in "Akira," which
provides one of the most stunning
transformations in cinema, you
can still see where there was once
a human. In "Oculus" you will find
yourself thinking: This was once
a mother, a father and so on. The
power of mutilation is profound
in our imaginations. (I would
also recommend playing through
the "Silent Hill" franchise. Just a
screenshot makes me tighten up)
Still, this is a film that under-
stands possession, its essence, the
deeper reason why itnterrifies us: It
is the agony of living in a body not
your own. In a mind outside your
control. This is why we wander
into the dark and invite horror into
ourlives. We come because we like
the thrill, we are masochists and
sadists, and it leaves usviolated.

By JOE REINHARD
Daily Arts Writer
You shouldn't always judge a
show by its pilot, but in the case
of AMC's "Turn," it's hard not to
have a few res-
ervations. For a
program that's
supposed to be Turn
a mix of a spy
thriller and a SeriesPremiere
Revolutionary Sundays at 9 p.m.
War drama, it's AMC
disappointing
that the first 90
minutes aren't as exciting as one
would hope. The show opts for
a slow-burn approach, and that
isn't to say there's nothing to
enjoy here, but it's clear it'll take
some time before there's any
real payoff. Luckily for "Turn,"
its first episode, a well-rounded
premiere if nothing extraordi-
nary, helps it along in proving
itself a worthwhile investment.
In part, that's because the
program's slower pace is rather
deliberate. Just by taking a look
at the source material - Alexan-
der Rose's book "Washington's
Spies: The Story of America's
First Spy Ring" - it's interesting
to see the show's approach to
the history. "Turn" stars Jamie
Bell ("The Adventures of Tin-
tin") as Abe Woodhull, a man
who's hesitant to work as a spy
because of conflicting priorities
between family, country and
what he feels is right. Because
the book doesn't give Abe's per-
spective alone, they could have
easily chosen a more heroic lead,
such as Benjamin Tallmadge
(Seth Numrich, "The Good
Wife"), whose early involve-
ment with the rebellion could
have lent itself to more exciting
stories sooner in the season.
Instead we primarily follow
Abe, and as of right now, he's not
the most interesting character.
Bell does a fine job in the role
though, so it should be interest-

AMC

"Running water would be nice."

ing to
and m
agains
since
orities
safe a
Judge]
McNal
bean")
tagoni
right
choice
one, h
on the
to a th
major

watch Abe become more to work off of moving forward
ore involved with spying anyway, and a good supporting
t the British, especially cast. The few exciting sequences
he has to juggle the pri- and flat-out cool moments
of keeping his family (particularly at the end) also
nd appeasing his father, do enough to tease the spying
Richard Woodhull (Kevin and backstabbing that's to
Ily, "Pirates of the Carib- come. In general, it does merely
. Choosing Abe as the pro- "enough" to present itself as a
st may seem questionable well-rounded show, but seeing
now, but seeing how the how it's in it for the long haul,
seems to be a conscious this is forgivable.
opefully we'll look back "Turn" really shines in its
pilot as a necessary piece portrayal of the Revolutionary
rilling story (and not as a era, which might not do enough
misstep). to make the story into must-
watch material, but the setting
and tone will appeal to those
I' " 1 with an interest in the time
SS SiOW- period. The main concern
inning," not right now is that people might
not watch until later on (at a
"slow." point when it presumably picks
up and becomes especially
thrilling), consequently
leading to low ratings and an
the show's credit, one early cancellation (and so never
n't confuse the phrase getting the chance to reach its
burn" with just "slow." potential). For now though it
amount is accomplished gets a recommendation, and we
pilot, as it provides Abe can only hope that it doesn't
decent backstory, enough betray our trust.

bi

To
should
"slow-
A fair
in the
with a

'Silicon Valley' shows promise

By EMILY BODDEN
DailyArts Writer
"Silicon Valley," HBO's newest
series, premiered last Sunday,
April 6, and it seems to hold a
lot of promise.
Despite its
underwhelming
pilot, the show Siliwn
as a whole
seems to be a Valley
smorgasbord Series Premiere
of other well-
reevd Sundays at 10 p.m.
received
comedies - HBO
particularly
prominent in the writing of the
characters.
Intelligently constructed, the
showtakes place in the titular Sil-
icon Valley and revolves around
website and app developers.
Unlike Comedy Central's "Work-
aholics," the type of work that the
characters do is very much at the
show's forefront. Several times
during the premiere, a social
hierarchy within the tech world
is established. While the writers
obviously play up stereotypes (the
coders are described as "douche-
bags" and characterized much
like the douchey jocks that can be
found roaming the halls of Ameri-
ca's high schools), it seems crucial
to the show's future development.
Even within a world that could
easily be filled with the dorki-

est and smartest kids you grew
up with, audiences discover that
Richard (Thomas Middleditch,
"The Wolf of Wall Street") and his
friends still remain at the bottom
of the social ladder, casted as the
underdogs.
Some of the secondary charac-
ters are brilliantly written. Some
personal favorites include Peter
Gregory (the late Christopher
Evan Welch, "War ofthe Worlds")
and the doctor (Andy Daly, "East-
bound and Down"). Welch plays
Peter Gregory beautifully. In his
first scene, Gregory gives a TED
Talk with a cadence so painfully
awkward and forced that it's clear
the writers are entirely famil-
iar with the banality of the real
TED lectures. The doctor gives
nods to Dr. Spaceman from
NBC's "30 Rock" through a few
slightly incompetent and self-
involved mannerisms. His pitch
at the end of the visit, which
sent Richard into even more of
a downward spiral, is similar
to the times Tracey visited Dr.
Spaceman in "30 Rock."
But not all of the secondary
characters are welcome
inclusions; having a hot, yet
well-informed techie as a
love interest for our socially
awkward, but endearing
protagonist, seems undeniably
trite. Even if Richard does
not get romantically involved

with Monica (Amanda Crew,
"Charlie St. Cloud"), the writers
will surely play up the sexual
tension. Hopefully HBO doesn't
fall into this repetitive pattern
and instead looks to use the
character for something more
compelling.
HBO's latest has
plenty room
for growth.
The character Gavin (Matt
Ross, "American Psycho")
seems like he could have
been taken out of a sketch in
"Portlandia." When Richard
goes into his office to discuss
selling his website, all of Gavin's
employees gush about their
employer in a seemingly cult-
like manner. While Richard
does not prescribe to the vibes
of Gavin's office, the discomfort
of the relationships permeated
the scene.
While notHBO'sbestpremiere,
"Silicon Valley"has plenty ofroom
to grow. The characters, evoking
those of shows past, are solid, and
the writers have set themselves
up for potential greatness as the
season progresses.

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