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Review: Oculus

Oculus
Apr. 11, 2014by:
8 10

PLOT: Years after mysterious circumstances killed their parents, two siblings reunite in order to destroy the object they think is responsible: a cursed mirror.

REVIEW: In the horror genre, it's always refreshing to see something just a bit different. No one has to reinvent the wheel at this point (no one is going to either, most likely), but when we're privy to a film that changes it up, looks at a situation from a slightly fresh angle, we should be grateful.

OCULUS is something different, mostly thanks to a director not afraid to assume his audience is smart. Mike Flanagan has taken what is pretty much a standard haunted object/possession story and given it enough tweaks and quirks to make it feel novel. Imaginatively told and boasting a clever visual style, OCULUS is suspenseful, fun and and very weird.

It's that weirdness that may be most welcome. So many movies in the genre play things safe, or at least according to a predictable format. Almost every major haunted house movie that comes out, no matter how good, plays be a certain set of rules, and the end game is almost always immediately obvious. During OCULUS, especially in the first act, we can't tell just what in the hell is going on - are these people actually talking about killing a mirror?! - because its motives and secrets aren't immediately presented to us in the same old, same old package.

What you should know about the plot: When they were kids, Kaylie and Tim Russell saw their father kill their mother, followed closely by Tim killing his father. Tim was taken to a mental facility, while Kaylie was sent to a foster home. Now, eleven years later, Tim is out, refreshed and just a bit wary of his intense sister, who expects him to keep a promise made those many years ago.

Tim and Kaylie remember the fateful night's events differently. Years of being under psychiatric care have left Tim with the impression that nothing more ominous than a psycho father was responsible for the tragic events, while Kaylie remains convinced darker forces were at work, namely a mirror known as the Lasser Glass. The Lasser Glass has a habit of being around people who suddenly go bonkers and mutilate themselves and others. It's Kaylie's mission to not only prove the mirror was responsible for their family's unraveling, but also to document its fiendishness with several cameras and ultimately destroy it. The mirror doesn't go so easily, of course, and has the power to alter your perception of reality while turning you into a warped version of yourself.

Instead of simply presenting us the past with a couple of flashbacks or a pre-credit scene, Flanagan tells a double-barreled tale, cutting between past and present, laying an equal amount of importance on both time periods. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the two stories are actually mirroring each other in eerie ways, and Flanagan very cunningly combines them in some instances, disorienting the audience and characters alike. Sometimes it even takes you a second to figure out which era you are in, which can actually be quite fun.

OCULUS puts it all out there, embracing its admittedly silly concept fully and taking it completely seriously. The mood is always cloaked in dread, every action has dire consequences. But it's also not afraid to call attention to its odd concept - there's a line that goes something like this: "What's more likely, that you're misremembering events from 11 years ago, or that the mirror eats dogs?!" That's a funny line, played for laughs, but also totally believable in the context of the scene. Flanagan has confidence in his ability to give the drama weight and the villain a genuine malevolence, so he can afford to let OCULUS be what it is at the end of the day, which is a haunted mirror movie. You get a prize if you ever thought you'd actually see a really good haunted mirror movie in your lifetime.

The director has also assembled a strong cast, though it must be noted that the actors in the section set in the past are actually the strongest. The two children who play Kaylie and Tim - Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, respectively - are tremendous, while Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff as the gradually deranged parents are at different times sympathetic and scary. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites as grown up Kaylie and Tim are both good, if not exactly equal to their younger counterparts; Gillan is able to appear borderline manic while still maintaining a doll-like fragility, while Thwaites is earnest and likable enough to gain our empathy.

OCULUS left me feeling uneasy and stimulated, something of a perfect reaction to a horror movie of this sort. It's a very nice surprise, and the signaling of a bold new voice in the horror genre.

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:20PM on 04/16/2014
Really enjoyed it and since it made back 3x it's budget, I welcome a sequel!
Really enjoyed it and since it made back 3x it's budget, I welcome a sequel!
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7:01PM on 04/12/2014
A very surprisingly good horror film. I love that it had no qualms about going the visceral, mental games path. People just don't seem interested in making this kind of horror these days. The fact that it's almost all in one environment with only a handful of actors makes it even better for me. Very surprising horror film.
A very surprisingly good horror film. I love that it had no qualms about going the visceral, mental games path. People just don't seem interested in making this kind of horror these days. The fact that it's almost all in one environment with only a handful of actors makes it even better for me. Very surprising horror film.
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3:53AM on 04/12/2014

I really liked it

I thought it took a good 45 minutes to get going but I enjoyed it. Not scary really but creepy enough and I loved the story. I thought the girl who played the young Kylie was fantastic. I recommend it but I'd give it a 7/10 myself.
I thought it took a good 45 minutes to get going but I enjoyed it. Not scary really but creepy enough and I loved the story. I thought the girl who played the young Kylie was fantastic. I recommend it but I'd give it a 7/10 myself.
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1:31AM on 04/12/2014
Just a super average movie. The past/present mirroring scenes that Eric was talking about were pretty cool and disorienting. But otherwise, the movie didn't have much going for it.
Just a super average movie. The past/present mirroring scenes that Eric was talking about were pretty cool and disorienting. But otherwise, the movie didn't have much going for it.
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10:06PM on 04/11/2014

Pretty Good

My only worry is that, like every horror movie now,they will keep making sequels to it, and we will have Occulus 10 in 4 years.

I hope they don't though
My only worry is that, like every horror movie now,they will keep making sequels to it, and we will have Occulus 10 in 4 years.

I hope they don't though
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8:37PM on 04/11/2014
8 out of 10... really? 2 out of 10 is stretching it. This was one of the most boring, pointless horror films I have ever seen. As much as I hate Paranormal Activity movies, I would give them another attempt before this. Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) happens until the last 15 minutes and by that point you will careless what does happen. To top it off, the last 15 minutes didn't even make sense. The thing that pissed me off more than anything in this film was the lead actress. I have never in my
8 out of 10... really? 2 out of 10 is stretching it. This was one of the most boring, pointless horror films I have ever seen. As much as I hate Paranormal Activity movies, I would give them another attempt before this. Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) happens until the last 15 minutes and by that point you will careless what does happen. To top it off, the last 15 minutes didn't even make sense. The thing that pissed me off more than anything in this film was the lead actress. I have never in my life seen a more annoying actress. Her look, her voice, her... just, everything about her made me want to reach through the screen and punch her. Just when I thought we stooped to the lowest we could possibly get with Paranormal Activity... along came Oculus.
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6:59PM on 04/12/2014
What? Not enough people dying and boo scares for you?
What? Not enough people dying and boo scares for you?
1:21PM on 04/11/2014
8/10 ?! wow, didnt see that coming. Now I'm interested
8/10 ?! wow, didnt see that coming. Now I'm interested
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12:53PM on 04/11/2014
8/10? I've got to check this out.
8/10? I've got to check this out.
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12:20PM on 04/11/2014

Very good

Saw it last night. Very Good!
Saw it last night. Very Good!
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12:16PM on 04/11/2014
This must be twilight zone. This film has 5 out of 10 written all over it, yet the reviews are amazing for it.

I do plan on seeing it tonight though, as one of my local theater only charges six dollars.
This must be twilight zone. This film has 5 out of 10 written all over it, yet the reviews are amazing for it.

I do plan on seeing it tonight though, as one of my local theater only charges six dollars.
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11:36AM on 04/11/2014

A decent horror movie, brought to us by WWE??

Interesting. I just can't wait for its yearly sequels!
Interesting. I just can't wait for its yearly sequels!
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11:06AM on 04/11/2014

Had a feeling...

it'd be decent at best, but DEFINITELY wasn't expecting an 8/10. Will give it a go this weekend.
it'd be decent at best, but DEFINITELY wasn't expecting an 8/10. Will give it a go this weekend.
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