Oculus: Because I needed to be afraid of mirrors | Film Review

Oculus
Directed and written by Mike Flanagan, James Wan
Starting:  Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan
Year: 2013

I am not a big fan of horror movies, or I was not, after seeing some scary films that were complete garbage, whose only factor was bad CGI and useless jump scares. But lately I’ve been seeing scary movies that have been praised by critics and my favourite YouTuber film reviewers, which has led me movies that are actually scary and good, movies of which I do not see the horror coming until is too late. This is one of those films. 

Amy Pond and Movie Giver now possess the mirror that destroyed their lives back when they were children, resulting in the death of Dad CSI and Mum Starbuck. But Amy Pond does not want to destroy it immediately, she wants to record what it can do, so she can finally clear her father’s name, and ridding the family of the darkness that surrounds them after their death.  Movie Giver however, has been in mental health treatment since the event, and has no active recollection of any supernatural event. It is basically them both in the house recording everything while conversing over what happened with a backdrop of the events that lead to it. So during the first half of the film we are left to wonder if the mirror is truly evil, or if it is all inside the sister’s head. 

The story of the family is told in parallels, one is the current time, and the other is eleven years in the past. In the beginning this is done wonderfully. We get introduced to Starbuck and CSI’s relationship and insecurities, which the mirror will, of course, play with. There is also the children in the future and how traumatized they have been by the experience. During the last part of the movie, it all goes confusing pretty fast. The viewer is unable to distinguish what is the past and the present, what is imagination and what is real, without seeing it twice. While this might have been  the purpose of the movie, it was too scrambled to make a coherent almost-ending. 

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this movie is that we never really find out the origin of the mirror. In the beginning we are shown that she can only trace the tragedies so far, and we are left to ponder how exactly it came to be. Was it created by a witch? Did someone die in front of it and it became possessed? Has it always existed? The friend I saw this with and I had a long conversation over its origin. 

The slow progress into madness  was done expertly, and unless someone is paying attention to the details in the movie, it might be missed by the audience. In the beginning we have the father keeping his children out of his study, and the mother showing her insecurity over a scar. Slowly we are shown Starbuck worrying over her husband having an affair, from hearing him call her things, to stopping taking care of her children, to finally the destroying stage. The father’s progression is assumed to be faster as he is the first consumed by the mirror, but the best of his story-line comes from him forgetting his children’s names and referring to them only by general terms, as well as telling them they are allowed into his office. It is a movie that will make you think, instead of assuming we are too stupid to piece things together, I like when I am not treated like an idiot. 

Every major actor in this movie gave a fantastic performance. Katee Sackhoff will always remain a favourite as the beloved Battestar Galactica  character, but this is a close second. Karen Gillan is also quite good, but I expected nothing less from The Doctor’s Companion. Rory Cochrane is someone I’ve only ever seen on television, but was able to show why his character was so interesting. And Brenton Thwaites redeemed himself after The Giver atrocity.  The surprise performance came from the children, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan. Some children are not usually well picked for movies, they are not good enough actors to carry their roles, or even for small cameos, however in here they were believable, mostly Basso. I will definitely see in what else she shows up. 

As any good film, the cinematography and score are wonderful and fitting. No tacky scenes with unnecessary backgrounds, and no odd music that is only there to be suddenly stopped so we can receive a fake scare. There is also however a lot of exposition, while some is necessary for the setting of the story, the rest seemed either unnecessary or too convenient. For a movie like this one, it simply did not work. 

The let down came from the ending. No matter how fitting I made it seem in my mind in the end, it seemed too unfair to the characters. I assume this is the part most people have the biggest issue with, which was the problem my friend had. 

I’ve heard many complaints that this was not a good horror film because there was no monster, as if monsters are the only things that can be scary. As if having both parents slowly go insane is not terrifying enough. I am just going to leave a link to The Problem With Horror Movies Today by Chris Stuckman, he shows my points much better than I could.

Since I was thoroughly scared and concentrated, I will most likely be seeing more movies directed by Flanagan. Besides James Wan, he might just be the only other person that can pull off a good horror film that will make you think, and scare you enough to start randomly laughing during the viewing.  

★★★1/2 /★★★★★

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