Saturday, December 13, 2014

Film Review: Oculus (2013)

Oculus (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...story is interesting, the storytelling is engaging, and the horror is effective."

Siblings Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) plan to document and destroy a mirror they believe possesses supernatural abilities...

Oculus seamless blends the past and present of Kaylie and Tim Russell and their experience with an eerie antique mirror. As children, the family is devastated by misfortune -- a mother on edge, a father with violent behavior, a mysterious woman and so on. In the present, Tim is released from a psychiatric hospital and finds his sister has obsessively researched the mirror of their past -- a mirror with a haunting past for itself. Kaylie also intends on documenting and destroying the mirror. Eventually, Tim is reluctantly drawn into Kaylie's plan. Unfortunately, the mirror is as strong as ever. I enjoyed the ending, albeit abrupt and simple.

Oculus is a very interesting and a very engaging horror film. Although I may not have explained it well, the plot is very interesting and even intricate -- not overly complicated, though. Of course, this is partly due to the storytelling, which frequently jumps from past to present -- and it does so seamlessly, which I enjoyed. The horror in this film is also very effective. There is some solid suspense, some jolting jump-scares, and some spooky visuals. There are a few scenes that sent chills through my body. For example, the apple-light bulb scene and the fingernail scene -- both were well executed and eerie, although the first is spoiled by the trailer. The film's mind-bending presentation (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration for some people) also offers some great psychological horror.

The one thing I really didn't like about this film... Kaylie. I think characters are incredibly important to any film, I only wish for a horror film with likable cast characters for once! In Oculus, Kaylie is equivalent to the annoying "I have to get the scoop" journalists or the "I have to say something funny for every line" douchebag. In this case, she's an overwhelmingly smug and arrogant character -- the dreadful "I told you so" character. There are moments that actually threw me off of the film precisely due to her character and delivery. There were even scenes where you almost feel bad for her, but then she reverts to her annoying self.

The acting was good, though. Brenton Thwaites is solid. Despite her terrible character, Karen Gillan isn't so bad - she spits her lines fast, but lacks charisma. However, I think Gillan is easily outshined by her younger counterpart, Annalise Basso -- an excellent performance from this young actress. The cinematography is great, the house is captured very well. The music was also good, fit the genre very well. The editing was great. Like I said, the film seamlessly transitions between past and present thanks to the precise editing. Director Mike Flanagan, who also directed Absentia, delivers a spooky and engaging horror film. Next to Mari Asato, Flanagan is one of my favorite contemporary horror directors.

Overall, Oculus is a very good horror film. The story is interesting, the storytelling is engaging, and the horror is effective. I especially like that the horror is more than one-note. However, the film is severely hindered by a terribly annoying character -- so annoying, it might actually pull you away from the film. And, although I enjoyed the ending, it was very simple and easy compared to the rest of the film -- almost too easy. Anyway, I recommend it for fans of Absentia and psychological horror films.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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