In 1983, ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ burst into cinemas. The tale of the Griswold family desperately trying to enjoy a fun, family holiday only to be disastrous, resonated with audiences. It gave star Chevy Chase’s career a huge boost with his comedies becoming 1980’s mainstays. Three theatrical sequels followed with ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ still an annual TV tradition. ‘Vacation’ is the fifth in the series, updating what’s been happening in the Griswold’s crazy but always funny world.

Wanting to bond with his family and relive childhood memories, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to take everyone on a road trip. Their destination is Walley World, a massive amusement park. Taking his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two sons, their idyllic vacation swiftly goes awry. Meeting people including his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her very weird husband Stone (Chris Hemsworth) add unexpected calamity to their holiday with Walley World increasingly looking out of reach.

Johnathan Goldstein directs ‘Vacation’ with an appropriately light touch. It certainly isn’t a gentle comedy as it cheerfully wears its political incorrectness on its sleeve. Fans of the series will find many familiar elements, adding a nostalgic layer. Newcomers should still enjoy it, even if it’s hardly sophisticated humour. It’s crude and some jokes don’t totally work but ‘Vacation’ supplies consistent laughs when needed.

‘Vacation’ relies on its talented cast to convey its silly humour. They do it well with Helms’ nerdy father a good foil to Applegate’s ‘do anything’ mother. The cast have a great time partaking in some of the outlandish situations their characters find themselves in. It’s also pleasing seeing Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return to their original roles, still showing the comic timing which made them so popular.

As part of the series ‘Vacation’ slots in neatly with its predecessors. It has enough of its own atmosphere to stand apart from the sequels but connects effortlessly. The Griswold family are still the least welcome family you’d want to go on a holiday with but watching them from the lounge room is always a safer and funnier option.

Rating out of 10: 6



Mike Flanagan has made a name as a horror movie master. Directing works such as ‘Doctor Sleep’ and the Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, Flanagan has proved his worth. While perhaps not as well-known as similar directors like Wes Craven or George Romero, Flanagan has built a credible body of work. ‘Oculus’ is among them with Flanagan’s skill in exploring the human condition as well as chilling the spine clearly evident.

Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) are haunted by their past. Eleven years earlier their parents Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Alan (Rory Cochrane) suffered horrible deaths. Kaylie believes an ancient mirror her father purchased held demonic qualities which led to their demise. Attempting to prove her theory, against her brother’s wishes, she uses the mirror to summon evil spirits with potentially deadly consequences.

Despite having an abundance of frights and the occasional blood, ‘Oculus’ is more than those superficial elements. Due to Flanagan’s ability in crafting engaging characters, ‘Oculus’ mainly focuses on emotional traumas. How their parent’s deaths affected them makes Kaylie and Tim complex and interesting people to watch. Their determination in concluding a never-ending nightmare sees them trying to understand the evil they face which is more powerful than they realise.

Occasionally the alternating timelines can be confusing. This may be a ploy by Flanagan to keep viewers on their toes, in which case it succeeds. In terms of scares, ‘Oculus’ generally has an atmosphere of silence. Loud noises don’t have to be in every horror movie, with the silent unseen foe just as creepy as a noisy one. Flanagan’s use of cinematography is also on a high scale, with off-kilter angles and shadowy corners reflecting the torment his characters endure.

‘Oculus’ is another solid horror movie from Flanagan. He knows what works whilst exhibiting flair in balancing characterisation and expected thrills. His movies are always worth seeking out with his addition to the horror maestro pantheon assured.

Rating out of 10: 7