As an avid fan of horror, I look forward to seeing films in the genre that at least attempt to be new and unique. Even though OCULUS is far from perfect, it gave it the old college try and for that it is worth a look (Pun intended).
Taking place in different time periods a decade apart, the story finds teenage siblings Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) terrorized by their parents Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie (Katee Sackoff). Ever since Alan purchased an ornate antique mirror (known as the Lasser Glass) their relationship has begun to whither and become abusive. This escalates to a tipping point that will alter and haunt the lives of the Russell family forever.
Ten years later we find Kaylie (DOCTOR WHO’s Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) still coping in their own ways with the tragic death of their parents. Having been released from a mental hospital, Tim just wants to get on with his life, but Kaylie is convinced that the looking glass is somehow responsible for not only her parent’s deaths, but also multiple fatalities going back through the ages. She is going to make sure she puts an end to its killing spree once and for all.
There have been many horror films through the years that deal with haunted objects most recently the well made but ultimately empty THE POSSESSION and the superb THE CONJURING. What impressed me about OCULUS was its unorthodox narrative. It seamlessly slips back and forth through time and toward the third act blends those time periods in fluid transitions. It takes a lot of skill from a directing standpoint to pull that off and Writer/Director Mike Flanagan was up to the challenge.
Unfortunately, I wish Flanagan spent a little more time tightening up the script. It’s a bit of a slow burn and teeters on becoming tiresome at times. I liked that Flanagan spends time with the characters so we care about them, but it almost backfires because not enough time is spent on the actual horror. The movie never becomes scary or even spine-tingling for that matter.
Now mind you, ever horror movie doesn’t have to be a balls-to-the-wall fright fest. There are plenty of great horror movies that are more about mood and style than actual scares. But it’s being marketed as a scary movie not a character drama, so there is a certain expectation by the audience especially after such similar films as INSIDIOUS and SINISTER which both deliver the goods.
Another issue is that “The Rules” of the haunted Lasser Glass are a little ambiguous and not clearly defined. This is especially problematic in the third act when the story becomes a bit of amindscrew. If you don’t understand the rules then it’s hard to know when there’s actual danger.
All in all, I still liked OCULUS and prefer to see horror movies like this because I ultimately go for story and I found the story intriguing and horrific.