Admittedly, I’m not huge on horror movies, however, I do give credit where credit is due. Every once in a while, a film from that genre will catch my interest and I’ll end up liking it a lot. Off the top of my head, ‘May’ and ‘Sinister’ definitely fall into that category, but now they are joined by Mike Flanagan’s ‘Oculus‘, the latest micro-budget thriller from Blumhouse Productions and WWE Studios starring former ‘Doctor Who’ star Karen Gillan.
Following in the footsteps of possessed item movies before it, ‘Oculus’ focuses on the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror that appears to be linked to supernatural forces that adorns the childhood home of Kaylie and Tim Russell. Ten years after an incident that left their parents dead and Tim institutionalized, the siblings are determined to prove that the mirror had something to do with it. But during the course of their experiment, reality is shattering around them and their childhood nightmare is starting all over again.
As a big fan of Amelia Pond, I’ll admit that the thing that attracted me to this movie was Gillan. After leaving the TARDIS, the actress boarded a number of different projects to expand her repertoire. Prior to this, she appeared in a romantic comedy called ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ and the Adult Swim show ‘NTSF:SD:SUV’. Then, later this summer, she’ll appear in Marvel Studios’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ as the villainous space pirate Nebula. And while many fans are looking forward to that role, they shouldn’t overlook her involvement in ‘Oculus’. For starters, her American accent is pretty spot on. If I hadn’t been familiar with her from her time as Matt Smith’s companion on that long-running sci-fi BBC show, then I probably wouldn’t have guessed that she was Scottish. In addition to that, she played the role of Kaylie very well. We’ve seen the actress tackle some dark and scary stuff as Amy, but she took it to another level here as she played a calculating, determined, and borderline obsessed young woman on a mission to absolve her family.
Gillan wasn’t the only shining star either. The cast did a good job all around, but Rory Cochrane was another stand out to me. It’s appropriate that this review comes out days after Rex Manning Day as I’ve known since ‘Empire Records’ that he had the ability to play some creepy, intense roles. Since his days as Lucas the night manager, he’s shown this to be true and he certainly does it again in this film as one of the mirror’s victims, Alan Russell.
While the cast is worthy of praise, the script and editing deserve to be talked about as well. I liked the way that Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard mixed a good amount of science in with the supernatural. Tim’s psychological explanations for the unfolding events were very interesting to me, possibly even more so than Kaylie’s research about the mirror’s history of death and despair. And then the editing skewed both together as they blurred the lines between the past and the present encounters with the Russell family. As Tim and Kaylie dug deeper and got even more lost in the reality that the mirror was creating, the film’s narrative turned more into a mindf*ck. We had multiple versions of these characters walking around the house with previous owners of the mirror. Basically, the layout of the story got crazier as the two siblings were further manipulated by the unexplained forces dwelling in the antique artifact and it made for a pretty interesting story to follow.
Overall, the most successful thing that ‘Oculus’ accomplished (besides being the best WWE Studios release besides ‘The Call’) was that it adequately freaked me out. Similar to the Weeping Angels in ‘Doctor Who’, this movie took something as ordinary and everyday as a mirror and made it scary. It could be my overactive imagination, but I felt uneasy walking by mirrors for a day or two after seeing the movie in the same way that I won’t blink when looking at stone angel statues. Surely, that’s something that the filmmakers are aiming to do, so kudos to them for succeeding in doing that to at least one person. If you’re into that sort of thing, I’d definitely recommend checking this movie out.