Monday, April 14, 2014
'Oculus' (Movie Review)
I had the chance to check out Oculus this weekend and I have to say it certainly surprised me. I walked into the theater with tempered expectations; holding out hope based on its R rating but nervous based on its distribution partnership with WWE Films. Luckily by the time things wrapped up I wasn't angry about the price I paid for the ticket!
Oculus focuses on Kaylie and Tim Russell, a brother and sister haunted by the events of their childhood. Tossed into the foster and psychiatric care systems after witnessing their father murder their mother, the two are reunited over a decade after the events when Tim is released from the mental hospital. Shortly after Tim's return, Kaylie explains that she has found the object that ruined their lives; the "Lasser Glass", and that it's time to "keep their promise".
What I expected from Oculus was 90 minutes of a family running around a house tormented by ghosts jumping out of a mirror. Lots of the tired "OMG their reflection is doing something different than they are!" scenes. Luckily, it seems director Mike Flanagan knew there were people like me out there and kept that stuff to a minimum. Instead, what we get is a smarter-than-average movie that makes highly effective use of time and intelligent cuts to disorient the viewer and create a really creepy atmosphere. It's very effective at telling the story in a disjointed fashion without getting annoying.
Rather than focus on the monster in the mirror, the movie stays glued to the Russell family's descent into madness, with Rory Cochrane doing a passable Jack Torrance impression as he slowly loses his mind. Katee Sackhoff also does an impressive job and creates some of the creepiest moments in the film. It's not a gore-fest by any means, but when the gross outs arrive they get results. There are also a lot of still camera shots in Oculus that I really appreciated, and they help to build tension nicely. There were a few scenes where Karen Gillan (Kaylie) tossed some extra ham on the plate, but they're forgivable because she also provides some darkly humorous moments too.
No spoilers here, so I'll tell you that Oculus is worth your time and money. Its faults are easily overlooked since it manages to avoid a lot of the tropes that sink so many of the current "PG-13 ghost movies" that get shoveled into theaters. It also provides some genuinely clever and scary moments that I totally didn't anticipate. Check it out if you're at all interested in a good horror flick that will mess with your head!
Reviewed in Theater