Review By Nathan Ligon
I am always happy to find a good horror movie. Most people think I don’t like them, but it is quite to the contrary. I like the genre just fine. I just can’t stand all the terrible films that are in it. Which is why I approach most of these films with very low expectations. That way if it turns out to be even half decent then I can enjoy myself while being forced to sit through garbage. That’s how I approached this movie as well. Boy, I was quite unprepared.
Oculus is a mind fuck of a movie. From minute one the movie tries to put you off balance and it just increases that uneasiness as it goes along. As a matter of fact, at one point in the movie I was actually beginning to wonder who was sane, if the mirror was evil, or if the entire thing was going to be like Shutter Island. In other words, this movie is as much a psychological thriller as it is a horror movie and it’s all the better for it.
It might seem silly to some people that the evil here is a mirror, but I actually find it quite genius. A mirror reflects things back and creates a self perpetuating cycle. This movie attempts to run its narrative in a very similar way by placing two similar tales (past and present) on top of each other. The audience is bounced back and forward between the present day and the events of 11 years prior that lead to the events of the present day. I won’t give too much of those events away, but I will tell I enjoyed almost every minute of it.
The story here takes place as a slow reveal of events that lead to its climax. Which means it’s one of those movies that is dangling a secret over your head the whole time and hoping you care. I quite often dislike this gimmick, but it works really well here. The reason for this mostly being that the movie cleverly overlaps a modern narrative with a past narrative. The modern narrative has a 21 year old man named Tim (Brenton Thwaites) getting out of a psychiatric hospital and meeting his older sister Kayle (Karen Gillan). The reason for his trip to the psych ward is a big part of the past narrative.
When Tim first sees his sister she let’s him know that she has tracked down the mirror that caused all of their problems as a child and she wants him to help her kill the bitch (as they call it). Tim is weary at first, but he shows up. However, Kayle doesn’t want to just kill the thing. She wants to clear her fathers name as well. She goes into a prolonged back history of the mirror and where it has come from before getting down to business. She is prepared to do whatever is necessary to show that the mirrors power is real and then kill it for what it did to her family.
After this, we bounce back and forth between the events of the past and the events of the present in a way that makes them seem like one continuous narrative structure. It is actually quite impressive on several levels. The film cleverly sets it’s modern events in the same house as the past. Which lets the whole thing feel like it exists together as one. It’s an ingenious bit of filmmaking that may actually allow the movie to cover up various plot points without people knowing. I will have to watch it again to be sure, but I’m sure there were some things that didn’t add up in this flick.
Still, I didn’t care much whether it completely worked or not. The editing in this movie is top notch, and the way that certain scenes are set up is quite brilliant. I also enjoyed the performances quite a bit and grew to really like the characters. At first I was a bit annoyed by the soap opera look of the male leads, but I think they over come that by the end. The two younger actors that fill the performances of the young Tim and Kayle are truly something. Their love and fear is quite emotional at times. Which is extremely important for me when it comes to horror.
Some will or won’t find this film scary. I don’t really care on that end. None of these movies ever really scare me. However, if I care about the characters, and I’m interested in their fate, then if can fear for them. That’s what happens when you are watching this movie. I’m not going to say that you will shit your pants in fear or anything, but you will be intrigued by the cleverly woven puzzle and care about the characters. That puts Oculus a large step ahead of most other horror movies.