Oculus (2014)

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I’d been wanting to watch this movie for a while and finally it was released here in the UK last Friday so I got round to seeing it and it doesn’t disappoint. It of course utilises on the usual horror checklist but this film likes playing with you more than going for gore and jumps. It’s a psychological angle directed by Mike Flanagan that benefits both the story and tension of the piece.

The film takes place over two timelines and sees the present day Kaylie (Karen Gillan) obtain a mirror called the Lasser Glass, to carry out a test on it thanks to her belief it possesses murderous qualities. She brings her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) along to keep to their past sibling promise of destroying this mirror for what it did to their family 11 years previously. The younger versions of the sister and brother (Annalise Basso & Garrett Ryan) are seen as the mirror starts wreaking havoc on their mum and dad. I cannot really say much more without spoiling what happens in the narrative.

To begin with the style and atmosphere of this film is moody and looks good. Most shots are precise and clean with both past and present blending together nicely to add to the psychological intensity of the story. It jumps upon a huge house as the central location and clearly this a very obvious horror movie trope but this house becomes a weapon in itself as the mirror takes hold and the past begins bleeding through also. It’s all very back and forth and a ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. The feeling of the movie in general is stylish and helps build up that needed suspenseful chill.

I have to credit the music also, which was achieved by The Newton Brothers. There is a very big feeling of dread picked up again and again by the constant sound of something like humming and tense background reverbs which rise in crescendos, that make for tense moments. It’s fitting to the story and therefore works well and in a lot of places the music makes the scene.

The expected aspects of horror cliches like hearing echoing voices, things being there and then not and false shocks to scare the audience don’t fully take away from this movie as I don’t believe it’s trying to be overly scary for the sake of being scary. It plays more on the mind and messes about with that instead which is in fact more unnerving and creates a deeper root of fear. The psychological thread plays well and as the film progresses the moments between past and present become closer and closer together. It’s a nicely paced story to settle us in before letting the timelines blur more and more.

There are indeed some stand out moments in some places of the film that do take a while to get used to or enjoy. An image of an apple can be something to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. A tense unsheeting of three objects in an auction house leads to that possibly hide behind your hands feeling. The dread aspect is where this film gains its biggest strength and as Kaylie comments to camera about what she is planning to uncover there lies a single hanging metallic level of dread that could swing down at any moment and change the game. The film does well in exploring the past of this sibling pairing and bringing that into their confused and unravelling present.

The acting is suitable for a horror film and the possessed minds of the mother and father from the past are very chilling. Rory Cochrane who plays their dad Alan brings about a high level of evil menace that can be down to something out of his control and the mixture of creepy and likeable niceness in Katee Sackhoff’s portrayal of the mother Marie is just another note of dread to add to the songsheet of this movie. Thwaites plays the older Tim with that sense of psychological attachment thanks to what happened to him and he showcases that assured sense of reason to his sister’s worries though obviously that could all be thrown out of the window if the mirror is indeed more than just a household item. He also carries that scared look that his younger self had and on a lighter note the actor looks like Pixar’s older Andy from ‘Toy Story 3’, like really. Gillan puts across a believable American accent and demonstrates just how much this mirror has affected her as she starts making you doubt how sane she truly is. She really is amazing and this has nothing to do with my mega Karen Gillan crush…I swear. She takes the lead well and does a great job in shooting through the clear use of exposition which revels in bringing that to the fore to let us in on the past of the mirror.

It’s a neatly directed intelligent atmospheric horror that has a rare few moments of bloody shock but goes for the more spine-tingling aspect of playing about with the mind and what is there and what isn’t. The time jumping helps bring the pace and action along and the central threat of a supernatural mirror is defintley open for sequels.

6.5/10

 

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