Oculus (2013)

Plot Overview

Kaylie’s brother, Tim, is finally released from a mental institution after being accused of killing their father as a child. During the years, she has built up research and tracked down a mirror which she believes is evil. Along with her brother, Kaylie intends to prove that it was in fact the mirror that killed their parents – and finally destroying it in the process.

Review

All I knew about the film before watching it was that Karen Gillan was in it. I didn’t know the plot, I didn’t know what the general consensus of it was – I had just dismissed it as being something lame and had ignored it completely, but then it started cropping up more and more and I decided to give it a shot.

At the beginning we see Tim being released from a mental hospital and Kaylie locating the mirror at an auction. When she goes to visit the mirror in the storage room, we immediately know something’s up as suddenly something is behind her that wasn’t there before. After picking up Tim, she discovers that he no longer remembers or believes anything regarding the mirror. The next day, they go to their childhood home where Kaylie has set up supplies, cameras and a number of precautions to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible (of course, it doesn’t).

Gillan is quite impressive here as she really sets the tone for Kaylie’s extreme determination and self-control. You believe everything she is saying – and you believe that she has no doubt in her mind. But some plot holes start to creep up here – the mirror messes with your mind and works in a certain radius… so all her controls are within this radius? As the film goes on we see just how the mirror messes with their minds and though most of these end up being fake-outs, they are genuinely quite unnerving. As you realise that there is definitely something supernatural at work and it’s not possibly something psychological, you perk up and become more involved.

The film also flashes back between the past and the present, but these transitions are so smooth that it feels like it’s all happening at the same time. As there is so much going on at this point the narrative begins to feel muddled – which somehow both enhances and detracts from the experience, as we can feel the confusion that the mirror causes but it doesn’t give us a second to sort out what is going on (it’s not all that difficult to grasp, but in a general sense of not being able to compose our thoughts or feelings about something before the next event happens).

Though the film delves into some history about the mirror (Kaylie gives examples of past cases), the film is fully focused on this family and not about where the mirror came from or why it’s evil. Which I found refreshing because I hate it when there is an evil thing which we know tons about, but the characters we’re following are merely puppets to the evil thing. It’s also not entirely about ‘revenge’ on the mirror, but more about a resolution for themselves, for their deceased parents to find peace and to stop the mirror doing it again.

Summary

Oculus is a flawed film, but still remains highly entertaining. It’s never really ‘scary’ – though, tense and creepy – and there aren’t really any jump-scares, but it’s a more subtle, psychological-based thriller. Based on the fact that it involves a reality-warping mirror, it could’ve done with a bit more ambiguity rather than definitive answers. With good acting from most involved, a creepy atmosphere and an interesting concept, the pros outweigh the cons and give us one of the more solid horror films in recent years.

Rating: 7/10

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