Movie Review

Oculus – Film Review


Oculus – Review by Niall Curran.

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan (screenplay), Jeff Howard (screenplay), 2 more credits »
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

Mirror Mirror on the Wall – Who’s the scariest of them all?

Mirrors have fascinated occultists as portals for spirits to enter the physical realm and inspired dread in ordinary folk for thousands of years. Mike Flanagan (director and co-writer) probes this deep rooted fear in this clever psychological horror thriller. The film tells the story of Kaylie (Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame) who wishes to exonerate her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) for the killing of their father ten years earlier by proving a supernatural phenomenon was responsible.

It begins with a flashback that depicts Tim shooting his father which turns out to be him describing the incident to his doctors in a psychiatric institution. Satisfied that he has taken responsibility for his actions, he is released to the care of his sister Kaylie. After collecting him, she tells him ‘I Found It’ and that she only has few days before it is to be shipped off to its new owner. The ‘It’ is a four hundred year old gothic mirror that she blames for the death of her mother and father. She reminds him of his promise made ten years earlier to help her destroy whatever power lies within.

They meet at their old house and carry the covered mirrored into their father’s old study where Kaylie has set-up video cameras and other monitoring equipment to record what happens before explaining to Tim all the strange deaths that have happened to those who once owned the mirror. Tim is not convinced that the mirror is to blame and instead attributes his mother’s mental breakdown to the stress of their father having an affair which in turns leads to the father snapping and shooting the mother.

What follows borrows heavily from modern horror such as The Ring as well as the classics – The Omen and The Shining – but its blending of both past and present into one spinning and confusing narrative that ratchets up the tension and transfixes you to the screen as your comprehension of what is actually happening is matched by the siblings’ desperate struggle to separate reality from hallucination. The editor deserves a lot credit for this effect but Annalise Basso and Garret Ryan as young Kaylie and Tim deserve praise for their convincing performances which allow the film to steer this course.

The traditional linear and predictable horror narrative of father loses mind is subverted which gives film an edge over most horror films. Instead, it inventively uses flashback to combine the sibling’s reliving of the nightmare from their childhood with Kaylie’s attempt to use modern technology to understand and defeat the mysterious supernatural phenomenon.

Overall, it is an intelligent film that probes our ancient fear of mirrors but also the psychological concept that our own mind may not tell us the truth. It will appeal to fans of classic horror fare due to its use of suspense and sounds to chill rather than action or gore but has its moments that will disturb and linger long in the memory afterwards.

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