Thursday 19 June 2014

Dark Review - Oculus

Dark Review

Oculus Review

By Casey Douglass


Oculus Film Poster

I often wonder what he's feeling.
Has he ever heard a word I've said?
Look at him now in the mirror dreaming
What is happening in his head?”
- Some lyrics from Go To The Mirror Boy by The Who.

The quoted lines above are incredibly fitting for a review about Oculus, a new horror film with a possessed mirror at the centre of every ghoulish event.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media

Oculus is the tale of a family torn apart by the machinations of said mirror, it’s need to ‘feed’ and sow discord ultimately breaking them apart with violence and murder.

After a highly charged flashback, the film starts with Kaylie (Karen Gillan) trying to hook up again with her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites). Tim has been staying in a mental institution since things all went south and has only just been released as he has been deemed ‘cured’. Kaylie is horrified that he has repressed, explained away and pushed down everything that happened to them when they were younger, even his promise for them both to come back and ‘deal with it’ when they are bigger and stronger.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
This dynamic informs the rest of the film and it is one of the ways that Oculus seems quite cerebral. By the midpoint of the film, I was unsure which of the siblings was correct in their view, which is a testament to the writing. I must admit that I didn’t find myself particularly concerned for their well-being, but such is the way of any horror film.

The film is interlaced with flashbacks to their younger days, the young Kaylie and Tim living with their parents Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie Russell (Katee Sackhoff), and settling into a new house as strange things start to happen. Rory’s Alan is the unfortunate who decides to hang the mirror in his office, and so succumbs first to its influence. Marie then becomes paranoid and nervous about what he is up to locked away in there all day. I must say that Katee Sackhoff steals the show in these flashback scenes and plays Marie’s dwindling mental health very deftly.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
As the film moves on, the flashback scenes intersperse with the modern day attempts to destroy the mirror and you are treated to the older grown up Tim and Kaylie watching their younger selves living through the horror the first time. I found this to be incredibly effective and added another layer of ‘what the heck is going on?’ to things.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
I also appreciated the soundtrack which was simple but ominous, much like I appreciated the uncluttered filming location of the abandoned childhood house. I felt it all gelled together really well and came away feeling impressed. It is also a rare horror film that doesn’t resort to cheap jump-scares on more than a couple of occasions. Although by another criteria, I didn’t actually find the film that scary. It was more psychological with a bit of grim drama than a balls-to-the-wall full-on horror.

I would give Oculus 4/5. If it had been that little bit more scary with two main characters that I could actually care about I might have given it a 5.

Oculus on IMDb.