Oculus is Blumhouse‘s latest horror flick to hit the screens and introduces a haunted mirror as the next thing to be scared of after Paranormal Activity’s Toby and Insidious’ The Further. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites play a pair of siblings who are on a quest to stop that terror.
- Director: Mike Flanagan
- Writers: Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard (Based on short script by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Seidman)
- Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty
- Cinematography: Michael Fimognari
- Music: The Newton Brothers
Oculus tells the story of siblings Kaylie (Gillan) and Tim (Thwaites) Russell who as adults go back to their family home to destroy the mirror that they believe destroyed their family. Older Tim initially is hesitant to go back as he spent most of his childhood in a mental hospital for being found guilty of killing their father as a child. Kaylie believes that Tim was forced to believe it was his fault when it was actually the mirror that drove their parents to insanity and their untimely deaths. She convinces Tim to return to the scene of the crime and document the effects of the mirror on the house before destroying it in order to exonerate him from the crime. Both spend the night reliving the events of their past and the lines blur between their memories and reality.
- Idea: The film centers around a villain that isn’t necessarily a flesh and bone antagonist. It plays upon the idea that the fears characters have get amplified because of it. This essentially will make you grapple the entire movie trying to figure out if the characters are losing their mind or if the mirror is indeed claiming souls.
- Acting: The ensemble cast that portray the Russell unit really capture a believable sense of family. The solid relationships built with the parents as kids is present even in the older versions of Kaylie and Tim. Everything from the small ticks and motivations from the past comes off naturally in present day Kaylie and Tim. So when you see older Kaylie and Tim confronting their parents it’s an authentic representation of their fears as kids. Gillan is a strong final girl who is more tough and challenging than scared and weak.
- The Scares: The scares come from a place of suspense. It’s not a gore fest or silly jump scares-filled picture. There are parts that are gory and parts that will make you jump but they come from moments that creep up on you. The horror comes from characters starting to lose it and seeing themselves doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do–like tear their fingernails off while seeing it as a band-aid or biting an apple that turns out to be a light bulb. The film plays upon not only the imagination of the characters but also of the viewers. When the actors reach their craziest points, the cast does a great job at tackling the insanity. Sackhoff makes a terrifying transformation from caring mother to a crazed animalistic woman.
- Exposition Monologue: There is legitimately a 12 minute monologue in this that breaks down the past of the mirror and its victims. Usually telling the exposition doesn’t work in movies but in this it actually works. Older Kaylie treats the object as a piece from an auction, detailing to those she sets out to prove that the mirror is haunted by laying its past down with images and facts. Gillan delivers it and knocks it out.
- Braided Storyline: The film has both the past and present occurring simultaneously in the house. When Kaylie and Tim return, they begin to flashback to the events on the night their family was torn apart. At points they bump into the younger versions of themselves and even their parents. It’s very cool and does plays tricks on the mind of the audience but it is also VERY disorienting and brain exhausting.
- The Fiance: While the film centers around the Russell family, little is really developed with Kaylie and her fiance who plays an integral part in the last quarter of the film. More needed to be built around them or have him included a bit more in order for an attachment to form or even be believable between Lafferty and Gillan.
Oculus plays like a fun house where nothing is as it seems. It uses mind tricks to access fears the audiences may have about losing their sanity. Not only do the characters struggle to try and figure out if what’s really going is the mirror or themselves–but so will anyone who sees the movie. The ending alone will leave much to talk about.