Thursday, May 8, 2014


Kaylie Russel and her brother Tim had a traumatic childhood. It was pretty normal up until they moved to a new house and their father bought an antique mirror with an ornate frame. Over time, their father was driven crazy by the mirror, murdered their mother, and tried to murder his children. Tim killed his father in self defense, but was convicted of murder and grew up in a mental institution. The day he left the institution, Kaylie puts into motion her plan to destroy the mirror and prove that supernatural forces manipulated her father. Unfortunately Tim has just completed his therapy and come to terms with the fantasy he and his sister created to cope with their father's insanity and attempt to murder them. Is the mirror really haunted or is it just a coping mechanism?

I wasn't expecting a lot from Oculus going into see it. The marketing was underwhelming and kind of cheesy, so I was braced for bad or at best, a cheesy yet fun film. Oculus is the most original horror film I've seen since You're Next. I loved every minute of it and it was a breath of fresh air compared to all the sequels, remakes, and rip-offs that clutter the genre. Oculus has 2 story lines: one in eleven years in the past where Kaylie and Tim witness their father going crazy and one in the present where Kaylie has planned to destroy the mirror with her brother as they promised when they were children. This film is kind of like a prequel with a sequel inside it. The stories are told in alternating segments that increase in intensity and horror as the film goes on until the two story lines actually intersect at the end of the film. It's very unexpected and well done thanks to the main antagonist, the mirror.

The mirror is a wonderfully creepy yet innocuous looking villain. By itself, it's not really anything. It feeds on people, plants, and animals and manipulates those near it. It also plays with people's perceptions and skews their reality. People throughout its considerable history have died of dehydration in a full bathtub, bit a live power line, broke their own bones with a hammer, and otherwise killed themselves in bizarre ways. I personally like that we have no idea where the mirror came from and it essentially has no origin story at this point. I also like that Kaylie is not an idiot and puts together elaborate precautions that force the mirror into keeping her and her brother alive in self preservation as well as keep her from forgetting to eat or drink. Beating this mirror is not as easy as smashing it to pieces because of its power to bend reality. The second half of the film has the audience constantly questioning what is real and what isn't right up until the very end.

Oculus is a suspenseful film with an original concept and good execution. Some moments are wonderfully cringe worthy and make the audience truly squirm in their seats. I especially liked that the doubt about whether the mirror is actually haunted or not is real. A lot of other films pay this doubt lip service, but don't actually entertain the possibility that it might all be psychological or a rationalization. I highly recommend Oculus to horror fans tired of sequels, remakes, and rip-offs and ready for something original.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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