'Oculus' movie review: Unseen terror that distorts perception
The zig-zag narrative and a hazy line between reality, imagination and flashbacks, keeps the viewers on their toes.
Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff
Director: Mike Flanagan
Do you chew your nails? Does it take you more than one effort to rip the band-aid off? Do you sometimes think you saw some stray object and then when you look again, think you were mistaken?
A series of small incidents, like the ones mentioned above, make the latest addition to the horror films genre, 'Oculus', an intriguing watch.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, 'Oculus' is based on an earlier short film by him, titled, 'Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man with the Plan'.
The story revolves around an incident in the that took place in the Russel household, some 11 years ago. Siblings Tim Russel (played by Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (played by Karen Gillan) are almost killed when due to events following the purchase of a certain large mirror, their parents go crazy. Their father killed their mother and Tim, as it appears, seems to have killed their father.
Tim is sent to a mental facility, and Kaylie is shipped off to a foster home. They meet a decade later, now in their early 20s, when Tim seems to have laid to rest his demons, and Kaylie seems to have harboured the old.
In an effort to prove that the things that happened to her family were due to the supernatural powers possessed by the antique mirror, Kaylie sets up booby traps across their old family home. She has spent her time tracking the mirror and has procured it and set it up in her old home, along with, cameras, temperature control, automated whacking devices, alarm clocks to remind them to consume food, water, etc. She wants document the activities of the mirror or whatever is possessing it.
"Hello again," Kaylie whispers to this piece of haunted furniture, adding tauntingly, "You must be hungry."
The idea of using electronics gadgets, family pets, plants and ghostly entities with glowing eyes, as tools of intrigue are not new, Flanagan does a fabulous job of the well-worn tools of torture.
Gillan as the tenacious, yet chirpily-obsessed Kaylie does a fantastic job. Thwaites as the younger brother Tim, is also flawless. Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff as the parents are the perfect combination of middle-class tranquility that turns into a horrific tragedy.
The zig-zag narrative, with the scenes flitting from present to past, and a hazy line between reality, imagination and flashbacks, keeps the viewers on their toes. Without the use of loud background music, overtly-exaggerated sound-effects or blood and gore, the film's look and feel is sometimes too real for comfort. Of course, the absence of a solid "ghost" or "monster" figure just adds to the terror. Because you never know if something is real, or is the mirror just "playing tricks".
Try and catch the morning show if you don't want to have to locate your car in the deserted parking of the theater at night. Because 'Oculus' is a film that will definitely spook the audience to the bone.
Note: The movie is rated 'A'.