Rental Review - Oculus

Oculus (2013), R, 104 minutes - Filmed in 2012 but not released until early 2014, Oculus had previously only been a blip on my radar due to its inclusion of two recent sci-fi favorite actresses: Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Gallactica) and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who).  Since I don't generally go out of my way to check out a horror film unless my wife is interested, it's a film that I hadn't previously had an overwhelming urge to see.  But after reading an indirect recommendation from an old college friend (technically his girlfriend - but she had posted online that it was the creepiest thing they had seen in quite a while) we agreed that it should be part of our Halloween-themed October viewing.

Oculus revolves around a haunted mirror that enters the lives of the Russell family when they move into a new house when siblings Tim and Kaylie were kids (Garrett Ryan and Annalise Basso respectively).  The film begins with an adult Tim (Brenton Thwaites) being released from a mental institution where he has resided and received treatment since the horrific events of what was deemed a domestic dispute in his youth that included the deaths of both parents, Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Alan (Rory Cochrane).  While Tim has been institutionalized, sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has grown up to live a fairly normal life, aside from her obsession with the mirror that she is convinced was at the heart of the traumatic events of their childhood.  Her job as a curator for an auction house affords her the opportunity to track down the mirror and upon picking up Tim after his release she reveals her elaborate plan to prove that the mirror was the cause of their parents' death, that their father was innocent, and that Tim wasn't crazy.

The way that Kaylie's unfolding plan is presented is what makes Oculus so successful in its creepiness.  Writer/director Mike Flanagan splices together events occurring during Kaylie's controlled and documented 'experiment' with flashbacks to the events of their childhood leading up to and including the awful night when their parents were killed.  Oculus isn't just a very creepy film, but it also leaves the viewer pondering the following question: was the mirror truly haunted and influencing events or was Tim mentally unstable all along?  

I've always been one that enjoys the psychological thriller end of the horror spectrum, and as it turns out, that is where Oculus resides.  It isn't too gory, it's well acted, and has a pretty good story and/or twist to it.  Apparently it also has roots in a short film (also written/directed by Mike Flanagan) titled Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man With The Plan from 2006 (which can be seen below in the spoiler section below).  I would highly recommend Oculus for those looking for a good psychological horror/thriller.  It'll keep you guessing and make you do a double take when passing mirrors for a couple of days after viewing!


- Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man With The Plan (2006), NR, 32 minutes - As this short film was the inspiration for the feature length Oculus, I share it here in the spoiler section similarly to the way I did the original short that inspired Mama (2013)


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