Oculus is all about the haunted, the creepy, and the fantastical in director Mike Flanagan’s first foray into the horror genre. The thrill is goose-bump raising, the horror is just the right amount of darkness, and while the film’s pacing seems rather cut throat and abrupt, the action is solid.
There are your films using cameras about poltergeist, or demonic possessions made popular by Paranormal Activity, but very few have outdone the original in terms of a scare factor that revolves around an evil relic – particularly in Oculus’ case where a decrepit and evil mirror that has quite a history is the centralization of all things horror. Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan of Dr. Who fame) is the over-the-top sister of Timothy Russelll (Brenton Thwaites) who is just released from a psychiatric ward for unknown reasons to the viewer at first. The past of childhood trauma at the death of their parents haunts Tim, and he wants to move on but his sister has not. She is obsessed at proving that the ancient mirror from their father’s office in their childhood was the cause of not only the death of both parents, but their earlier traumas. Begrudgingly, Tim is hurled back into a world of recollected memories and haunting doubts stemming from the fragmentation of childhood horrors and vague recollections. Kaylie is well prepared, sets up cameras documenting the evil nature of the mirror and wants to essentially destroy the mirror entirely (if she can). What we as the audience experience is the sense of doubt and a tribulation brought up by the frustrations of two siblings trying to right their horrid past. The direct narrative of Karen Gillan into the cameras with us as the audience within an audience format is entirely engaging and always keeping us leaned slightly forward in our seats.
As Oculus continues throughout the film, the middle and the ending in particular waver towards a discrepant disappointment with a lot of flashbacks in the film combined with a parapsychological montage of sorts as the evil ancient mirror works its delusion on the two siblings in order to feed off of them and survive. In a mix and match of elements from the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, we find a decent reflection from Oculus in terms of the value of the ticket we paid to see it.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars