Review: Oculus – Not the fairest of them all
An antique mirror is a portal to a dimension of demons and the deceased in Oculus, a new horror film that starts off as an original and inventive psychological thriller, but eventually decomposes into a run-of-the-mill spook story that is far from being the fairest of them all.
On his twenty-first birthday, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is released from a mental institution where he has spent the last decade recovering after he murdered his own father in a crazy sequence of spooky events that went down in his family’s home.
Tim’s older sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan, who you might recognize from the Doctor Who television series), has been waiting for her brother’s release so that the siblings can correct the mysterious wrong that destroyed their Mother (Katee Sackhoff) and Father (Rory Cochrane), and sent Tim into the insane asylum.
As the story unfolds the timeline jumps back and forth between present day and ten years previous, when Tim and Kaylie were just kids (played respectively by Garrett Ryan and Annalise Basso); and when adult Kaylie lures Tim back into their childhood home we realize that the brother and sister have different takes on what actually happened to them.
Tim is convinced that there are real world reasons for everything, but Kaylie believes there is a supernatural explanation that revolves around the old mirror that was in her Father’s office. This is where Oculus shines, as the two siblings debate the disturbing events and the audience is left to make its own decision about who’s really crazy (if either of them – or both of them.) It’s really a shame that the filmmaker, writer/director Mike Flanagan, didn’t stay this course.
I loved the character of Kaylie as both an adult and a child. She’s a strong willed and well written female character and I really enjoyed all of her ghost-busting preparations and determination to prove the existence of evil and defeat it.
Kaylie and Tim’s arguments over what is real and what is not is the best part of this film, which had potential to be a classic; but about half-way through the movie it is almost as if Flanagan hits a creative wall and cops out by going straight up ghost flick and forgets the fun psychological stuff.
There are a few creepy moments to be had, but I can’t say I was ever actually scared by any of the average genre tricks this film plays. Once they give up the ghost, so to speak, it’s all pretty predictable from then on.
Oculus is getting comparisons to The Conjuring, but it’s nowhere near as scary as that movie. It is by no means a bad film, and ghost movie fans will most likely still enjoy it, but I’m very disappointed that it wasn’t all it could have been had the filmmakers stuck to their guns. Grade: 6.5/10
Photos © 2014 Lasser Productions