Plot – A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.
Director – Mike Flanagan
Released – June 2014
These days Mike Flanagan has developed a reputation for successfully adapting horror novels for both the big and small screen, first, there was Shirley Jacksons’ The Haunting of Hill House and then Stephen Kings’ Doctor Sleep, but before this, he was writing a directing his own creations, arguably the best of which being Oculus, a movie that just like his later work proves that horror doesn’t need to be filled with sex, gore or jump-scares to be entertaining and most importantly, scary. If you have plenty of suspense and tension to fall back on, you can produce am interesting and haunting horror flick, with enough bloody and suspense to satisfy those that want to be shocked while mixing the genres to give it psychological-thriller vibe and entertain those of us that love our genre films to engage the brain too.
Just like the rest of Flanagan’s work, Oculus is somewhat of a slow build to begin with, opting to provide the characters with plenty of development, letting the tension build and drama to form, especially between main characters Kaylie and Tim. Now, this might put off some who want to be scared from minute one, but for me, given that the entire film is about misdirection and not seeing the truth, I found this helped to add doubt into the viewer’s mind, just like the characters themselves.
Just like in The Legend of Hill House, Oculus makes use of multiple timelines, the first being the story of Tim and Kaylie as children first being introduced to the mirror, while the second takes place in the present, with Tim and Kaylie clearly damaged by their past and attempting to figure out what the mirror did to not just them but also their parents. In both cases, the dialogue between the characters is excellent, with their decisions feeling feel both logical and smart. It was also great to see the mirroring (No pun intended) between the two timelines and how it affected the siblings in different ways.
Karen Gillian did a terrific job performing Kaylie, you could tell that she was going to go on to do big things, which has been proven by her turns in both the Marvel cinematic universe and the recent Jumanji movies. While Brenton Thwaites nails it as Tim, the more emotional and supposedly more broken of the two siblings. The best performances, however, belongs to that of Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff, both of which fully encompasses the roles of two parents falling out of love and slowly going losing grip with reality due to the influence of a paranormal entity.
Oculus is easily one of the best psychological horror films to come out in recent years, containing a compelling story, a good number of twists, excellent acting and the few jump-scares that pop-up don’t feel cheap. I can’t wait to see what Flanagan does next.