2014-10-31 13:34
What's it about:

Ten years ago, tragedy struck the Russell family, leaving the lives of teenage siblings Tim and Kaylie forever changed, when Tim was convicted of the brutal murder of their parents. Now in his 20s, Tim is released from protective custody and only wants to move on with his life, but Kaylie, still haunted by that fateful night, is convinced that her parents’ deaths were caused by something else altogether: a malevolent supernatural force unleashed through the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror in their childhood home.

Determined to prove Tim’s innocence, Kaylie tracks down the mirror, only to learn that similar deaths have befallen previous owners over the past century. With the mysterious mirror now back in their hands, Tim and Kaylie soon find their hold on reality shattered by terrifying hallucinations, and realise, too late, that their childhood nightmare is beginning again.

What we thought:

Mirrors have been used for scares in horrors since forever and always makes an audience dread whenever someone is in a bathroom looking into a medicine cabinet. Although we expect it, it still proves to be an effective scare.

Ironically, in a film about a haunted mirror, director Mike Flanagan opted to rather focus on what happens outside the mirror than inside it, using the mirror scare trope against the audience. Rather than distort what’s in the mirror, Oculus distorts the reality around the mirror, making you question literally everything that happens in the film.

Just released from a psychiatric hospital after sentenced with shooting his dad as a kid, Tim Russell tries to start over and reconnect with his older sister. She, on the other hand, wants to prove that what happened to their family was caused by a malevolent antique mirror, which she has tracked down and taken back to their old home.

Firstly, your question would be – are you insane? You knew what the mirror does and yet you actively go looking for it? Generally the characters don’t know what they are in for until they can’t ignore it, but here they know right from the start, although Tim tries to rationalise everything with what he learnt in the psych ward, while his sister goes the crazy route.

But that’s the beauty of the mirror’s horror. It’s affect on the world is purely mental and everything that happens to the its victims is done by their own hand, or that of someone they love. It’s the perfect supernatural crime and all that everyone else sees is someone who lost their marbles.

Originally the film was a short with only one character, and it’s clearly a passion project of the director. The scares were a bit more subtle and focused more on building up suspense rather than cheap thrills and the dual storyline – past and present running concurrently throughout, both with the same ending – could have easily flopped but Flanagan’s involvement in the film as not only writer and director but editor as well attributed to some great editing moments.

However, somehow Oculus just missed The Conjuring mark for me (which is my modern horror measure). Despite its uniqueness, it was still too predictable and a couple of glaring holes that could not be filled by the reality-altering mirror kept it from reaching its potential. For instance, why was the Russell kids not affected by the mirror when they were young? And why the boy was incarcerated for shooting his father when it could clearly have been ruled as self-defence? (I know, it’s just a movie, but these things sometimes hamper your logic when trying to enjoy it.)

As for the acting, it was okay. The father and mother played by Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, 24) and Rory Cochrane (CSI Miami, A Scanner Darkly) were scarily good and the kids who played the young brother and sister showed impressive skills for their age. However, the older Russell kids played by Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, The Giver) were quite wooden, especially given their good performances in their other films.

Opening on Halloween, Oculus would be a good choice to celebrate the ghoulish American holiday and between this and Annabelle I would say they are pretty on par with each other and both will definitely give your soul a few chills.
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Anonymous 2014/10/31 12:40 PM
Can't even get the reviewer's name right. Gabo, LOL.
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