Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Oculus

Image courtesy of Relativity Media.
Mike Flanagan's "Oculus" is much scarier than any movie about a haunted mirror has the right to be. It's not exactly the best horror movie of the past couple of years as has been suggested by a handful of critics, but it is pretty inventive and often spooky.

The picture opens with a young man named Tim (Brenton Thwaites) who is released from a mental hospital some years after his father murdered his mother and he, in turn, shot his father. Tim's sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan), picks him up from the hospital and from the moment we see her, we can tell she is on a mission.

Kaylie is convinced that a mirror owned by she and Tim's parents - as well as numerous others who owned the creepy old looking glass throughout the ages who met untimely demises - is haunted and that it played a role in the family's tragedy. This might sound silly, but Flanagan takes great pains to avoid absurdity, delivering a surreal atmosphere that leaves viewers unsettled and, often, purposefully confused.

Tim naturally wonders whether his sister is as delusional as he once possibly was and, clearly, this turn of events is the last thing he needs after being let out of the hospital. Kaylie and her brother travel to their former home, where she has the mirror on loan from the antique auction house where it is being held. This is the only slightly unbelievable element in the film, which is funny considering that the picture is about a haunted mirror.

Kaylie warns Tim that the mirror plays tricks on the imagination. You may think you are speaking to someone on the phone in the home's front yard, for instance, when in fact you are talking to no one on your phone in the kitchen. And so forth. This is used for maximum effect in two particular scenes - one involving an apple that will make most viewers cringe and, another, involving a pendulum-type of object that would likely force some revision to Chekhov's gun theory.

There are, of course, a few of the type of jump scares that have become increasingly prevalent in horror films. You know what I'm talking about. A person looks around and there's nothing there. They look around again and suddenly some sort of creepy being is standing right behind them and accompanied by a loud clang on the soundtrack. "Oculus" is at its weakest when relying upon this device.

But mostly, it's a clever horror picture with some genuinely creepy moments, a sinister tone of doom throughout and fine performances not only by its two leads, but also by Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff as Kaylie and Tim's parents.

So, while "Oculus" may not reinvent or reinvigorate the horror genre, it's a pretty decent entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment