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My senior year of college, I lived with (still) my best friend, Marion Kerr. We lived in Irvine (which I am convinced is the Hellmouth), near a little video store called Gold Star Video, run by a sweet-faced woman named Peru. We decided to challenge ourselves to watch every horror movie in their horror section that year – and nearly succeeded – watching 175 out of 217. We watched a lot of terrible films (Halloween 3, Dead End Drive In), but also found some unheralded gems (Fade to Black, Final Exam) and we officially became horror junkies. Since she and I are pretty angel faced, we confused people with our  blood lust – Peru was perplexed, and even Jackie Joseph, who we spoke to at our first Fangoria convention felt compelled to ask, “What are you nice girls doing here?”

 

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We kept a notebook and wrote down info on every film – cast, quotes, popular horror themes (lead girl’s name ending in Y, someone calling “who’s there?”, topless chicks, etc). We clutched each other in abject horror during Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left. Marion fell off the couch she was so scared when Johnny Depp got sucked into his bed in the original Nightmare on Elm Street (still my have horror movie of all time). We were scared, but we also felt that with every horror movie we watched, we had a better chance of survival in case of actual events. We knew not to run down that blind alley, not to check the hallway with only a candle to light the way, to never say “I’ll be right back!” We felt proud that we sat through all of the Nightmares, Halloweens, Friday the 13ths, Hellraisers and Child’s Plays – even if most of them sucked.

 

 

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To be honest, becoming a horror fan is one of the smartest things I have ever done. I’ve made incredible friends and gotten several jobs because of my enthusiasm for horror – including one at Second Spin, and one of the leads in Delta Delta Die! back in 2003.  A Full Moon Feature, I was overly excited to get covered in a bucket a blood, and that I got to deliver possibly the best line in the film – (watch below at 1:30). Sadly, my career as a scream queen has yet to take off. (Even though I have a FANTASTIC horror movie scream).

 

 

I’ve never particularly understood why horror – nay, all film itself – it’s mainly a man’s game. At the New Bev I am constantly perplexed by the man/woman ratio (90% men on 90% of nights) – where are the other Julias? I understand that not everyone enjoys being frightened, but I find being scared a delight – it makes me feel alive –  my heart pounds, my breath quickens, my hands clutch each other in anticipation – I love it. And, of course, watching horror films in the theater with an audience is the BEST way to see them.

 

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I have been so disappointed in horror films lately – I have been trying to keep up, more or less, with modern horror but I hadn’t seen any movie within the last five years that had really rocked my socks – until this week. I decided to take in a double of The Quiet Ones and Oculus – two recent horror films I knew nothing about, save the posters I had seen around town. I was ready for disappointment – everything I had seen recently had been reductive, CGI filled and boring. Luckily, I was wrong.

 

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The Quiet Ones gets extra points off the bat for being a new Hammer Film. Set in England in 1974 and “inspired by true events”, the film follows a small crew of students helping a slightly dastardly Oxford abnormal psych professor while he tries to prove that the young girl in his psychiatric care is merely insane, not possessed. Jared Harris does a snakily wonderful job as the professor, and Olivia Cooke is hauntingly beautiful as the disturbed girl, but it is Sam Claflin that stars as the shy cameraman, Brian, that steals the film. Because of the time period & set up, half the film is shown in 16mm – as we look through Brian’s camera – which of course delighted me. The film has some decent scares, and some nice twists – I look forward to seeing what else Hammer will be offering up in the next few years. And I am officially crushing on Sam Claflin. Hubba Hubba.

 

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But the film that I really want to write about is Oculus – which blew my goddamn mind. It is one of the scariest, cleverest and well written horror films I have seen since 28 Days Later. And, of course, knowing absolutely nothing about it made it even more fun. (I am going to try to not spoil too much here, but some plot points will be revealed.)

 

Not since my favorite final girl Nancy kicked Freddy’s burnt butt has there been a heroine as incredible as Karen Gillan’s Kaley. She is beautiful, smart, and has spent 10 years devising a fool-proof plan to kill the demon that lurks inside the Lasser Glass – an antique mirror that has killed over 40 people in a very personal and horrific manner over the last 400 years, including her mother and father. Or is Kaley crazy, and did her parents just lose their minds? Either way, she has more booby traps and kill switches than you can shake a stick at, and she ain’t backing down for no one – not even her younger brother, Tim, who has been getting brainwashed at  mental institution for the last decade. But she’s believably awesome – she hasn’t turned into a Sarah Connor type, but is going to win using her intelligence and street smarts.

 

M90  Karen Gillian stars in Relativity Media's OCULUS.  Photo Credit: John Estes ©2013 Lasser Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

The film jumps back and forth between two timelines – Kaley and Tim as children going through their parents downward spiral, as well as their present attempt to kill the evil – and it does so seamlessly. There are several astounding gore effects in the film that are terrifically squirm worthy, but the thing that makes the film so terrifying is that it locks into a fear I think every child has had at some point .What if your parents – the people you trust wholeheartedly for your security and well-being – went crazy. Like REALLY crazy. By tapping into this primal fear, the film knocks you off-balance and puts you back into the child’s mind – where monsters lurk around every corner and you wouldn’t dare leave the closet door open at night. Brilliant. And genuinely horrifying.

 

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I had also never seen Karen Gillan before and I think I am in love. I am a straight woman, but she might be the most beautiful girl I have ever seen and she KILLS this role. I know Doctor Who fans are already on board her train, but I am signing up for a ticket here and now. I hope she becomes a big star because she fucking deserves it. Also, she chews an apple cuter than anyone else I have ever seen in my life.

 

 

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I highly recommend Oculus – it got me excited for horror again, and that’s saying a lot. It’s inspired me to write a horror script myself – something I should have done years ago – that pulls from all of the horror knowledge I have accrued over the years. And if a movie can do that, i’d say it’s worth your $14 bucks.