The premise of Oculus is not terribly original – a typically happy family’s lives disintegrate when subjected to the supernatural evil lurking within the misty glass of an antique mirror. The principle elements of the story constitute, in various forms, the basis of many often forgettable horror movies that have come and gone like a poltergeist in a cinema.
Actress Karen Gillan (Dr Who) plays Kaylie, a girl raised in a foster home ever since the grizzly death of both her parents at the hands of her father. She believes that the true cause of the events of that fateful evening was in fact a demonic influence present in their house, emanating from an ominous-looking black-framed mirror. She and her younger brother Tim (played by hunky starlet Brenton Thwaites) – fresh out of a mental asylum – team up after years apart, determined to destroy the mirror and prove their father’s innocence. What ensues is a chilling game of wits between the haunted mirror and the two siblings, with the former confusing the latter (and the audience) by way of frightening visions and memories from their childhood, with devastating consequences.
The story shifts elegantly back and forth between the present and the past, revealing clue by clue the gruesome back story of the two protagonists, building up tension gradually before exploding in a spine-chilling climax like a good old-fashioned ghost story. Seldom does director John Flanaghan (who was at the helm of 2011’s cult hit Absentia) resort to the usual “boo” tactics in order to scare the audience, but achieves a sense of horror by way of atmosphere. Both lead actors competently buoy the movie along, with Gillan playing the usual spunky heroine whose determination is as fiery as her blazing red hair, and Thwaites with perhaps the film’s most demanding role – a young man who, despite a traumatic and mentally unstable youth, must nevertheless rise up to the occasion in order to face his demons. The fact that he does it so swiftly and easily is one of the movie’s least credible turning points, but this is less a fault of the actor’s than it is of the writers’ (Flanaghan together with long-time co-writer Jeff Howard).
Although there is nothing new offered here, the film is crafted with considerable intelligence. The result is an ideal film for lovers of the genre as well as those looking for an decent scarer for date night.
Oculus is released nationwide on 13th June 2014.
Watch the trailer for Oculus here: