Dir: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan and Katee Sackhoff
Synopsis: A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Oculus is a feature length adaptation based off director Mike Flanagan’s short film. The movie blends elements of a psychological thriller with horror tropes lightly thrown in. It follows adult siblings Kaylie (Gillan) and Tim Russell (Thwaites) whose lives were shattered when their parents were brutally murdered ten years prior.
After spending his adolescence in a mental facility, Tim has come to grips with what he feels was a tragically dysfunctional family. He is – at least to some degree – at peace with his parents’ violent deaths, as he believes that it was their bad choices that caused them. Kaylie, however, has spent those years plotting her revenge against what she believes is the true responsible party: a supernatural and malevolent force that resides within an antique mirror known as The Lasser Glass.
Determined to prove that her family is innocent, Kaylie secures the mirror and brings it back to their childhood home, where everything happened. After setting up an elaborate recording system to “catch” the entity and prove its existence, Kaylie convinces her brother to join her attempt to fulfill their childhood promise to one another: destroying it.
The cast of Gillan and Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane as Tim and Kaylie’s parents, and Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan as their younger Kaylie and Tim do a great job in their roles. Arguably, it is the younger actors in Basso and Ryan that give the performances that carry the movie, especially Basso as the younger Kaylie. They elevate the movie with that performance that intensifies the emotional weight of this story and makes you afraid for them in the present. The mirror is a character init to itself, where it even has a menacing look. Although it not an actual person it is a major threat to our characters that it can control everything around it.
Although the promotion material is marketing Oculus as a straight up horror film, it is a lot more than that. Director Mike Flanagan adds great layers to the story, in where you don’t feel like you’re watching a horror movie at all sometimes. The way he crafts the movie is something that I can’t really remember seeing. He leaves the events, especially the ending, to our own imagination. Oculus is more creepy thriller than horror movie, but the movie does have some great horror movie moments that are effective.
The movie cuts between the past and the present in clever ways, that it makes it seem like everything is actually happening all over again, which makes the mirror even more terrifying. As the movie progresses, the cuts in between time becomes more blurry and dangerous. But, with that said, the movie is also about people dealing with traumatic events and finding ways to cope. Kaylie is obsessed with revealing the truth but Tim tries desperately to convince her, their family wasn’t perfect.
All in all, Oculus has strong moments and takes the risk of challenging the audience to questions that don’t necessarily have answers or chooses not to answer. While most movies that follow this formula, tend to fail or get murky, Oculus strives on it and it’s this element that makes the movie work. I know people are talking about the ending (which I obviously won’t spoil) but I think once people really soak the movie in and see everything, the ending will make more sense.
4 out of 5