Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Tell me, do these jeans make my butt look big?
When Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) were both very young, they saw their father (Rory Cochrane) shoot their mother (Katee Sackhoff) in cold blood. The case gets thrown out as a standard case of murder in the first-degree, however, the kids think differently. See, they think it’s all because of some strange, ancient mirror they had ever since they moved on, which ironically enough is exactly once all of the weird, creepy stuff started to happen to this family in the first place. Nobody believes these two, seemingly crazed-kids, so the government sends Kaylie away to an orphanage, where she’ll most likely be made fun-of her life and taught to be independent; whereas Tim becomes a bit of a nut-case, and is sent to a mental-institution, where he is studied and tested, while he’s also trying to come to grips with what it is that he really saw: Was it a dream-like sequence to get their minds away from the grim reality of this grisly murder, or is this mirror actually possessed by some sort of demon. Neither of the two really know for sure, which is why, 10-12 years later, the two reunite at their childhood home where the murder occurred and play their own little game of Ghost Hunters. Except, it’s just them, and the mirror that’s been haunting their lives for the past decade or so.
While it may seem like every horror movie that comes out nowadays, may be an exact carbon-copy of the last (a statement which does hold some truth), there are those very surprising exceptions that take the horror-genre, and sort of spin it on its ears. These types of movies don’t really commit such an act by coming up with a new, inventive way to tell their story, but instead, realize that what makes and breaks horror movies nowadays, is whether or not they can be entertaining. Sure, everybody can be pissing their pants by showing them every jump-scare in the book, but is that really fun to watch? Expecting a scare to happen, so that when it does happen, you jump a little bit less than you would have, had you not known anything about any horror movie, ever made?
Personally, I think where most horror movies really make their gravy is in just how much fun they can have with toying and teasing with the audience’s expectations; and in Oculus, there’s plenty of that. However, it’s not the type of toying and teasing you’d expect from a movie like the Cabin in the Woods, where it’s clearly obvious that the creators behind it think that are a lot smarter than average the movie-goer. It’s more like the kind of toying and teasing you do with a dog when you’re playing fetch with it – you take it this way, that way, and all of a sudden, you surprise them and have them absolutely excited.
Bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got in the tank right now.
Though this is his first-outing behind the camera in a big-screen feature, Mike Flanagan shows that he has the chops to do a bit more new, and exciting things with the horror-genre. Not only does he bring us into his story with interesting, somewhat sympathetic characters, but he never allows for this story to get too over-blown or insane. Actually, that’s a lie. He totally does. In fact, that’s probably my biggest problem with this movie is that when all is said and done, and that abrupt-as-hell ending hits you, it comes too quick. But even worse, it doesn’t exactly make much sense.
But see, this is where I start to get a bit jumbled-up in my own words now. Because the aspect where this movie really works, is in the way it is able to just keep on messing with us, having us look at one thing, while surprising us with a completely other, different thing. Which, yes, is fine and all, but after awhile, some of it does start to make you scratch your head and wonder just what the hell is going, or how did that happen. Not going to give too much away, but I’ll put it like this, that mirror likes to do a lot of tricking, without ever treating, so be ready for that.
However though, like I said before, that whole aspect of not knowing what’s going on, is sort of what works so well for it in the end. This is a horror film in the sense that we get scares, ghosts, blood, teeth pulled-out, murder, screaming, people with freaky, glowish-eyes, and all that other jazz, but it’s also a lot more like a thriller as well. Mainly because instead of making this an all-out gore-fest where people in the crowd go “yuck!” and “ew!”, while covering their eyes and simultaneously throwing up their dinner, Flanagan keeps his sights on building up suspense to where you feel like anything could happen with this story, at just about any second. And I don’t mean that because it’s a fun movie, I mean that literally, because it gets confusing-as-hell.
But I don’t want to harp on that too much, because the fact of the matter is this: It’s a fun horror movie. That’s all you really need. Sure, the performances from the cast are good; Karen Gillan in particular that seems like she’s never heard of comedy a single day in her life and delivers every line in a straight-forward manner, which actually works and makes us look at her as a bit of a cook-ball, which is what this movie definitely wanted to have going for it. However though, this is less about them and more about the show. The show that keeps on going, regardless of how nonsensical it gets. Which, granted, is about ten minutes into it, but really, are horror movies really the type of movies you want to be realistic about?
Yeah, didn’t think so. Just enjoy and shut up!
Consensus: While Oculus doesn’t set out to try and re-invent the horror-wheel, it still does a fine job at building tension, characters and a twisty story to exciting proportions, even if you may not be coming out of it totally convinced you know everything that happened.
7 / 10 = Rental!!