Oculus (2013)


Oculus is an intriguing tale of two siblings trying to draw out a malevolent, sadistic entity residing in an antique mirror while rediscovering (and reliving) the horrific events of their previous encounter.

This Lovecraftian inspired film is refreshing in that the villain remains stationary for most of the film and doesn’t attack its victims directly.  Instead, it uses its influence to slowly drive its victims crazy.  It tricks them into harming themselves and others with hallucinations.  Worse still, any attempt to destroy the mirror are prevented by mind tricks that the entity plays on its attackers.

The story follows the events of the present as well as those that took place eleven years before.  These events run in parallel and, as the tale progresses, the past and present begin to merge more and more.  We eventually learn what happened to the siblings, why Tim was in a psychiatric hospital, and why Kaylie devoted her adult life to finding and exposing the truth about the mirror.

Kaylie Russell was written well and was played wonderfully by Karen Gillan as an adult and by Annalise Basso as a 12-year old.  Both performances allowed you to connect with the character, which is important for the movie’s climatic end.  Brenton Thwaites and Garret Ryan did a fine job as Kaylie’s brother Tim as well.  And Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff were simply amazing as their parents, especially after the entity started to influence them.

On the surface, Oculus is merely a horror story about two people trying to document and destroy a mysterious entity that feeds off its influenced victims. But the entity’s influence over the father creates an interesting subtext which I found to be much richer.  Under this surface, we see the family being torn apart by the father’s affair with a woman named Marisol (played by Kate Siegel).  We see Kaylie first asking about the mysterious woman in the office, but then later covering for her father, saying there was no woman.  We see pets and children behaving differently and uncooperatively because they sense that something is wrong.  We see the mother becoming even more insecure with her appearance and worth as a mother after confirming the affair.  And ultimately, we see the mother being tortured by her husband’s actions, and Tim punishing his father for giving into Marisol.  All this made me really wonder if the mirror is real or if this was all a defense mechanism created by two children’s minds to cope with their father’s betrayal of the family.

The scares were pretty good in this film.  I especially loved seeing the mirrored eyes of the fallen victims.  They say the eyes are the windows to the soul.  So there’s something genuinely creepy about looking into someone’s eyes and seeing yourself.

I give Oculus a 3.75 out of 5.


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