Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.
Starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty, Miguel Sandoval, Kate Siegel.
Written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, based on a short film written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Seidman.
Directed by Mike Flanagan.
Not being a fan of horror movies puts me at a great disadvantage whenever I review films like Oculus, even though I try to keep an open mind. I suppose a distaste for things that go “bump in the night” precludes me from having any desire to see movies that scare me. I thought the idea in life was to avoid horror, but I guess there’s a market for everything.
Oculus is the story of two siblings trying to prove a mirror is evil. The siblings are Kaylie and Tim Russell – played by Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites as adults with Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan taking on the same roles as kids. The story begins as Tim is being released from a mental hospital where he spent the several years locked up for shooting and killing his father (Rory Cochrane) ten years prior. Dad had apparently gone off the deep end, torturing and murdering the kid’s mother (Katee Sackoff). Kaylie is convinced their dad was possessed by and evil mirror called the “Lasser Glass,” sold or handed down through more than a century, leaving death, murder and all kind of violence in the lives of all who possessed it.
To prove it, Kaylie acquires the mirror and sets up a trap to destroy it using technology and gadgets placed in the same family home where the murders happened. As the siblings try to ‘outsmart’ the mirror, they soon fall victim to the evil inside that prompts them into a new pattern of self-destructive behavior. The rest of the story happens through flashbacks between the night of their parents’ deaths and the present day. The story ends in a bloody mess, without resolution.
I like to learn a few things from movies, and Oculus didn’t teach me anything new, with the possible exception of: “Be careful when buying home furnishings. They might be possessed.” Sure, there are scares and startles commonly found in such movies, plenty to make the screaming girls and adrenaline junkies happy. Most of those scares happen via some tried-and-true horror movie gimmicks, like when you see a main character look one way and then turn around, you know there’s going to be 1) a ‘fakeout’ (“don’t scare me like that!”) moment or 2) a really creepy encounter with something evil and deadly.
Gillam’s performance is noteworthy, but the story in Oculus really isn’t that clever, and the results seem like a set up for yet another long franchise with endless sequels (“coming to theaters in 2020: Oculus 6”).