Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan, Jeff Seidman
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff
Oculus was a horror that I was really anticipating after some positive conversations and a very chilling trailer was released not too long ago, however as the genre keeps producing in recent years, I was once faced again with a very typical and exhausted film, despite evidence of potential. Based on Mike Flanagan’s short story the writer turned director, was responsible for both the good and the bad behind Oculus, whilst the ugly was provided by a very shell-shocked Katee Sackhoff portraying Marie Russell. A mixture between psychological terror and minor-gore provided for a very thrilling horror and watch, but one which I felt was over-complicated in story.
Kaylie Russell and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites) were subject to witness violent events as children at the hands of their once loving parents, in the present day, Tim has just been released from a psychiatric ward after being convicted of murdering his father, and under the suggestions of his doctors his has been told to reunite with his sister Kaylie. Kaylie however since the incident as a child has been obsessing over a mirror who she believes is responsible for a list of supernatural events, including the possessing of her father and mother which led to those awful events those years ago. In an attempt to prove to her brother than it wasn’t truly him who killed their father, she sets up a plan to film the mirror and show him its supernatural powers on a night where seeing isn’t always believing.
Oculus consists of a very good set-up story, which it approaches very well in the introduction, however as the mirror’s powers are displayed it soon shows how false-realities are made as our characters see what they want to see, however as an audience and especially for me, this became very confusing and problematic. It seems that the film and the writers have over-complicated a very decent story which holds much potential, and as I viewed Oculus, as much as I wanted to understand and enjoy the film, I was left frustrated with the constant change in truths and realities.
The film however was slightly different to many horrors recently released, there wasn’t too much supernatural action or visual gore until the final climaxes, yet it still obtained a very creepy and eerie feel, something which was a success. However when the gore came and the supernatural beings, it was achieved and used well, producing more thrills and a few gasps. Katee Sackhoff, who played Tim and Kaylie’s mother within the film, was in particularly the most horrifying aspect in Oculus as she haunted the old house, and history was shown.
Karen Gillan, who is very well-known for her role within Doctor Who, performed well and her portrayal of Kaylie was successful. This is the first film I have seen Gillan in, and the first acting display away from Doctor Who; but she lived up to expectation and achieved the obsessive, interesting and bold character she needed to. Brenton Thwaites’ as Tim was also good, with the unknown actor handling the fast-paced haunting scenes very realistically. However the two members of the cast which deserve most credit are Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan who played younger versions of Kaylie and Tim in the many flashbacks within Oculus; the duo handled the job well and produced both believable and professional performances.
The highlight of Oculus however was in the hands of Flanagan who’s directing has made him a much more common name within film, and deservedly so. Oculus achieves a directing style which is rare for horror films; it was refreshing and unique with a range of shots and angles which were all used very well. The look was also brilliant, whilst special effects and make-up, especially on Katee Sackhoff was a real highlight.
It is a shame that for all the good which Oculus achieves it was let down majorly by a story which was repetitive, over-complex and frustrating. I feel that due to this everything else was very limited, in what was a high potential thrilling horror. Oculus is still a film which is very worth-while to watch, although not the most flawless it is an entertaining and cinematically appealing and different. Flanagan may have not hit the big-time with his writing, but his original concept and directing was certainly impressive. Horror disappointed last year in cinema and Oculus seemed to have followed in the average footsteps left behind.