Oculus Movie Review
While using every horror movie cliche in the book, this film cleverly tells a bracingly original story that will have genre fans squirming in their seats. It's rare that a movie can actually scare us anymore, and while this one is a bit over-serious, it playfully twists old tricks to confound expectations.
The story centres on a brother and sister: 21-year-old Tim (Brenton Thwaites) has just been collected by his big sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) after spending 10 years in a psychiatric hospital. She tells him that they only have a few days to make good the promise they made a decade ago: to destroy a mirror that they believe caused the unexplained violent deaths of their parents (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane). Kaylie has everything ready, including cameras to capture the truth about this evil mirror and a fail-safe plan to destroy it before it can lure them into its murderous clutches.
The film inventively flickers back and forth in time between the present day and the fateful earlier events, when the parents and siblings (played as children by Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan Ewald) have their own freaky encounter with this enormous gothic mirror. In both timelines, plants wither, pets go nuts and strange figures are glimpsed in the shadows. But the mirror's most dangerous trick is to fracture reality, and now past and present seem to be merging for Tom and Kaylie. Director-cowriter Mike Flanagan fluidly weaves together both timelines in eye-catching ways, continually shifting the emotional tone as well, just to keep us off balance.
All of the actors are excellent, creating sharp connections with each other that are strained when the mirror begins messing with their perceptions. Which of course is a problem for the film, because it's impossible to believe anything we see. Still, up until the outbreak of supernatural chaos, the imagery plays ingeniously on our deepest fears. And as the story becomes increasingly terrifying, it also makes some pointed comments on the lingering effects of our own family histories.