Oculus

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film takes place in two different times: the present and 11 years earlier. The two plotlines are told in parallel through flashbacks.

In 2002, software engineer Alan Russell moves into a new house with his wife Marie, 10-year-old son Tim, and 12-year-old daughter Kaylie. Alan purchases an antique mirror to decorate his office. Unbeknownst to them the mirror is supernatural and malevolent and induces hallucinations in both adults; Marie is haunted by visions of her own body decaying, while Alan is seduced by a ghostly woman named Marisol, who has mirrors in place of eyes.

Over time, the parents become psychotic, with Alan increasingly isolating himself in his office and Marie becoming withdrawn and paranoid. During the same period, all of the plants in the house die and the family dog disappears after being locked in the office with the mirror. After Kaylie witnesses Alan interacting with Marisol and tells her mother, Marie goes insane and attempts to kill her children. Alan overpowers her and chains her to their bedroom wall.

Alan remains isolated in his office for an indeterminate period of time; when the family runs out of food, the children attempt to seek help from their neighbors, who disbelieve their stories. Attempting to contact doctors or the authorities, Kaylie discovers that all of her phone calls are answered by the same man, who admonishes her to speak with her father.

One night, Alan unchains Marie, and both parents attack the children. Marie briefly comes to her senses, only to be shot dead by Alan. Alan corners the children in his office, but also experiences a moment of lucidity, during which he forces Tim to shoot him to death. The police arrive and take Tim into custody. Before the siblings are separated, they promise to reunite as adults and destroy the mirror. As Tim is taken away in the back of a squad car he sees the ghosts of his parents watching him from the house.

Eleven years later, Tim is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, having come to believe that there were no supernatural events involved in his parents’ deaths. Kaylie, meanwhile, has spent most of her young adulthood researching the history of the mirror, obsessively documenting the lives and deaths of everyone who’s ever owned it. Using her position as an employee of an auction house, Kaylie obtains access to the mirror and has it transported to the family home, where she places it in a room filled with surveillance cameras and a “kill switch”—an anchor weighted to the ceiling and set to a timer. Kaylie intends to destroy the mirror but first wants to document its powers proving its supernatural nature and thus vindicate her family.

Tim joins Kaylie at the house and attempts to convince his sister that she’s rationalized their parents’ deaths as being caused by an external force, in order to avoid facing the truth. The siblings argue for the duration of the evening until they find that the cameras in the room have inexplicably moved; reviewing the video, they realize that the mirror induced them to rearrange the contents of the room without their knowledge. Tim finally accepts that the mirror does have some diabolical power and attempts to escape the house with Kaylie, only for the pair to be repeatedly drawn back by the mirror’s influence. Trying to call the police for help, they are only able to reach the same voice who spoke to them on the phone as children. Kaylie accidentally kills her fiancé who she mistakes for a hallucination of her deceased mother and later sees his ghostly figure having mirrors for eyes. The pair begin to hallucinate and experience visions of everyone killed by the mirror, who all appear as ghostly figures with mirrors in place of their eyes.

Finally younger Kaylie is drawn to the mirror by an image of her mother beckoning to her, at the same time current day Tim has a hallucination of being alone in the room with the mirror. He activates the kill switch, causing the anchor to descend and fatally impale older Kaylie. The police arrive and arrest a hysterical Tim, just as they had arrested him when he was younger. Both current and younger Tim insist that “the mirror did it.” The Tims are taken away in the back of a squad car as younger Tim witnesses the ghosts of his parents watching him from the house. Current Tim witnesses the ghost of Kaylie watching in addition to his parents. As the police car carrying younger Tim drives away, younger Kaylie is seen outside the house looking upon the car and then dropping her head as if in defeat.

REVIEW:

It seems as if the horror/suspense genre has been struggling to release something worthy of note lately. Seriously, what was the last flick in this genre that you can remember being released in the last few years? I can’t think of any that were good that are worth mentioning. Hopefully, Oculus will change all of this.

What is this about?

Now young adults, sibs Tim and Kaylie are still trying to recover from — and get to the bottom of — their parents’ deaths more than a decade ago.

What did I like?

Companion. With her time on Dr. Who over, Karen Gillian is making a strong play to become a name over here in the states. She has the looks and the talent, that is for sure. Before that show that was just cancelled on ABC, she starred in this and Guardians of the Galaxy. Is she on the level of someone like say, Meryl Streep? No, not yet, but this is her first US film, as far as I know, and is much better than some of today’s “stars”.  Performances such as this where she shows depth of character are sure to keep her working for a long time.

Back and forth. Most of the time I am not a fan when flashbacks are such an integral part of the film’s plot, unless they set up the story. In the case of this film, that is what initially the idea was, but as the film goes on, we see that we are basically watching two different timelines, which is an interesting way to tell a narrative.

Creepy. Not being a horror fan (or a scaredy cat), I don’t usually get creeped out by films like this or its ilk, but I will say that this whole thing about a mirror that subtly drives you crazy, causes hallucinations, and seems to abduct animals is something that doesn’t exactly make me feel safe, that’s for sure. Throw in the mirror eyes ghosts and some very effective visuals this film did and if I were a lesser man, I may have been in danger of nightmares tonight!

What didn’t I like?

Sack. Much in the same way that Karen Gillian is making her way to bigger and better things after being on (British) TV for so many years, Katee Sackhoff is also making her jump to theaters. We last saw her in Riddick, playing the typical hard-ass chick that she made so famous when she was on Battlestar Galactica. This role is a bit different for her, as she is playing a caring mother, not exactly the kind of character we know her for. On top of that, she’s actually wearing a dress in a scene or two. Nothing wrong with that, but there are a couple of issues. First, it is like in school when you see someone who normally wears jeans, sweatpants, shorts, etc., all of a sudden get all dressed up. You don’t know what to say! Second, the dress they put her in is very frumpy. It was like they wanted to sent her back and make her a schoolmarm. Poor Katee!

Decrescendo. Aside from the exciting conclusion, this film starts off with a bit of a bang and then quickly drops down to a wimper. For this genre, I’m not surprised, but it does take one out of the festivities, if you will. Taking too long to build things back up almost had me dozing off.

Malevolence. Usually, whenever a malevolent force terrorizes people, we get to know a bit of history about the object and how it became imbued with evil. We get a little bit of history about the mirror, or at least some of the other cases in past and what the name of it was, forgive me for forgetting. Nothing is really told to us about the mirror’s history. While that isn’t a game breaker for this film, I can’t help but feel that we needed a bit of a backstory. Perhaps they were saving that for the possible sequel?

Oculus only piqued my interest because if had Katee Sackhoff and Karen Gillian, I won’t lie to you. However, as I sit her reflecting on what I just saw, I am glad that I took the time to watch it and embrace the other characters. This film has a great story that really develops, albeit slowly, and comes to a thrilling conclusion. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, definitely something to check out, especially on a dark and stormy night.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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3 Responses to “Oculus”

  1. Very enjoyable film.

    My only issue was that the great build-up came to a generic end. The ending where…well…you know…was used in so many 2014 horror movies. Drove me nuts haha

  2. Mystery Man Says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

  3. Mystery Man Says:

    yeah, seems horror has just become so generic these days. so annoying because this has such promise

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