Another Introspective Art House Flick From WWE Films? If they were smart, they'd have found a way to make the Ultimate Warrior's ghost the antagonist.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Aerosmith albums out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Young man released from mental hospital 10 years after killing his father is met by sister, who promptly asks him to kill again.
Tagline: "You see what it wants you to see."
Better Tagline: "Objects in the mirror are grosser than they appear."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: When he was 11 years old, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) killed his father with the old man's own gun (cue Elton John song). Now he's being released from the mental institution where he's spent the last ten years. Tim's sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan), uninterested in his apparent recovery, intends to hold him to the promise he made that fateful night: to kill the supernatural entity responsible for their parents' deaths.
"Critical" Analysis: Oculus might be the most effective Ikea commercial ever made.
If you watch enough horror movies, you become convinced early on it's a bad idea to have anything in your house pre-dating the Ford Administration (not counting your parents, if they're living with you). Not only are antiques generally creepy looking, with their intricate craftsmanship and years upon years of accumulated stains, but the fact they've been around as long as they have means supernatural forces have had plenty of time to possess them.
So when you combine the two, as Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane) does when he purchases a centuries-old German (another red flag) mirror for his home office, you might as well go out and reserve the family burial plots.
Oculus oc-scillates (heh) between flashbacks to Alan's escalating instability and unpleasant behavior -- mostly at the expense of wife Marie (Katee Sackhoff) -- and present day Kaylie and Tim elaborate preparations for the entity's return.
Well, they're mostly Kaylie's preparations. While Tim was getting his head shrunk, Kaylie devoted those years to researching the mirror and devising a plan to trap and, perhaps, kill its occupant. Setting up multiple cameras on independent power supplies and creating a fail-safe of sorts should things go awry. In that respect, Oculus makes cinematic history: the first known use of Chekhov's yacht anchor.
I'm not a Doctor Who aficionado, but Gillan is quite good, and Sackhoff is a horror natural, in that her face goes from zero to demonic leer in .4 seconds. Can't say the same for the male leads, unfortunately. Thwaites is mostly generic pretty boy, and as unfair as it is to typecast Cochrane, I will never in a million years be frightened by Slater-san.
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There are two problems here. One, for all her meticulous planning around recording the proceedings, it's never clear how Kaylie actually intends to stop the ghost (or "hant" as she refers to it), which has been draining life forces and causing unpleasant murder/suicides for hundreds of years. I mentioned her contingency solution (Code Name: "Anchors Aweigh"), but we never hear Plan A.
Second, well, it's a *mirror*. Even if you can't attack the entity inside directly (her name is "Marisol" and she uses Mind Powers to foil you), just burn the goddamn house down.
That said, the first two acts are solid, adequate suspense-building stuff. Modern horror is rarely atmospheric, and director Mike Flanagan maintains a decent slow burn, intertwining and finally connecting the two timelines. But the ending feels rushed and arbitrary, abandoning mood for a handful of gory cheap shots.
Oculus is in theaters today. Why not complement your movie experience with a trip to Ikea?