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Oculus Review


When I was a kid, I remember watching a made for t.v., kid friendly horror short about a young boy terrorised by the sentient reflection in his bedroom mirror. I can't remember the name of it, but the story,  has been burned into my brain as one of the creepiest things I have ever seen, and it was my first brush with the haunted mirror plot device. It has been used by many a horror movie down the years, and here it is again, taking centre stage in Oculus, where it tries to do new things with the well worn trope, with varying degrees of success.

Based on director Mike Flanagan's own short, Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man With The Plan, Oculus sees Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites play Kaylie and Tim Russell, siblings whose parents were killed tragically eleven years previously. While Tim has come to believe, after years of psychiatric help, that there is a rational explanation behind the events, Kaylie believes the Lasser Glass, a mirror linked to forty five mysterious deaths in it's lifetime, is responsible, and, having finally gotten her hands on it, means to destroy it once and for all.

One of the most interesting things about this movie is that it presents it's narrative as two spereate time lines running parallel to each other, present day charting Tim and Kaylie's attempts to understand and destroy the Lasser Glass, while flashing back to the past sheds light on the tragic events which robbed them of their parents (Katee Sackoff and Rory Cochrane). For the most part, it works really well, albeit after some initial confusion, and helps intensify the sense of dread which hangs over the picture. Flanagan makes a conscious decision to stay away from gratuitous amounts of gore, instead going for a more psychological angle, as the mirror begins to mess with the Russell family's perception of reality. The actors do a good job of selling the story, though some performance come off as a little flat at times, especially when the story intesifies. Gillan, already a darling of the geek set thanks to her role as Amy Pond in Doctor Who, does a good job of selling Kaylie's determination to avenge her parents deaths. She is the horror cliche of the character who can't leave well enough alone, at whose feet blame for the entire situation lies, but find yourself warming to her quite early on. And Sackoff delivers an extremely creepy turn as her mental well being is slowly washed away.

After an awkward info dump, charting the history of the Lasser Glass to get the audience up to speed on the plot, Oculus really comes into it's own, delivering creepy moment after creepy moment instead of relying on cheap scares (if anything, this movie will make you think twice about eating an apple while changing a light bulb), and succeeding in disorienting the audience as much as the characters. The problem is, despite it's attempts to present the story in way rarely seen in a horror, it falls back on far too many horror cliches, which threaten to take you out, and sometimes does, of the story at the drop of a hat. It's in the third act that the unique narrative structure begins to fall apart. The two time lines start to bleed together, and while it is meant to disorient the viewer, it only succeeds in confusing them, lessening the impact of the finale.

Not entirely perfect, Oculus is still a smart slice of horror which will keep most fans of the genre very happy.


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The Movie Bit: Oculus Review
Oculus Review
The Movie Bit
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