REVIEW — “Oculus”
Mirrors have always held a special place in the supernatural storytelling world. Whether they show what cannot be seen, act as a portal to another realm, or reveal the undead bloodsuckers in your midst, they are frequently one of the most frightening inanimate objects to grace the silver screen. A number of movies have tried to scare us with mirrors, but of that genre, “Oculus” comes closest.
The movie is written, directed, and edited by Mike Flanagan, and based on his 2006 short film “Oculus:Chapter 3- The Man with a Plan.” Both films focus on a 400 year old mirror known as the “Lassar Glass.” Over the centuries it has been linked to a number of mysterious deaths, including the parents of the two main characters Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) On Tim’s 21st birthday he is released from a mental institution and reunited with Kaylie who after a number of years has tracked down the mirror. With her brother’s reluctant help, and a very well thought out plan, she intends to prove that the Mirror is in someway evil and directly lead to their parents deaths.
“Oculus” is exceptional in a number of ways. The film is beautifully shot, and the nearly all of the effects are practical, not CG. All the performances are excellent, especially Karen Gillan’s who has a stronger than expected screen presence. If you are familiar with the 2006 short, there are some nice references to it, including a cameo by the original actor/victim who plays Warren, the auction house repairman. The script is smartly written, and the heroes are intelligent. They tend not to make the typical horror movie mistakes that so many other films thrive on. Instead they are truly engaged in a battle of the wits against an entity that can alter their perception of reality. Some viewers may be disappointed by the “slow burn” approach it takes in telling the overall story. The first half of the movie builds the tension, playing on the audience psychologically, before scary things actually begin happening in the second half. Another unique storytelling element this movie employes is the way it handles the telling of their first experience with the mirror as children. What starts as basic flashbacks at the beginning of the movie begin to slowly overlap the current timeline as the mirror increasing disorientates its victims. It’s an effective and unsettling way of drawing the audience into the story.
If any complaints can be made, it’s perhaps a bit too long. The final ending is also hinted at a little too much and although satisfying, does not come as much of a surprise. It still remains one of the better made thrillers and definitely one of the scariest mirrors in cinema history. If nothing else, hopefully this movie will enlighten the audience on the dangers of purchasing antiques.
Note: Rated R, it is definitely not for children. Please be aware that due to a number of scenes containing parent/child violence it could be exceptionally disturbing for kids.
3.5 out of 5 Stars