I should warn you now, before you view this film you should disregard any trailers or tv spots you’ve seen. They’re misleading. Or perhaps, more accurately, they only provide a glimpse into a small part of of the story. Which for me worked great, as the trailers seemed more like a derivative supernatural flick I’d seen before. Oculus feels like two movies in one; a supernatural past interwoven beautifully with the psychological present.
Siblings Kaylie and Tim Russell had a rough childhood. Both of their parents descend into madness shortly after the arrival of a mysterious antique mirror, and it culminates in a tragedy. Kaylie is pushed into the foster system and Tim is sent to a mental hospital in the aftermath. Eleven years later, Tim is released and the siblings meet again in their childhood home to fulfill their promise to each other years ago; destroy the mirror that destroyed their family. Kaylie is prepared, having done so much research on the mirror’s history she’s set up a strict set of precautions to protect them from the mirror’s defense mechanisms. Tim is less sure of the plan, afraid what this could mean for his state of mind.
Over the course of the evening, while the pair are fighting off hallucinations, their past is slowly revealed through flashbacks. This format is both impressive and a bit repetitve. Impressive in its cleverness, but after a while you feel like the hallucinations are all stuck on repeat. The past storyline is far more intriguing because of this.
The performances are impressive as well, especially the child actors who play the younger versions of Kaylie and Tim. Your heart breaks for them. You watch as the mirror seduces their father (played by Rory Cochrane) and plays on the insecurities of their mother (played by Katee Sackhoff). The unravelling of their psyches may be the most interesting aspect of the story. Present day Kaylie and Tim fight off the mirror’s effects, struggling to figure out what is real or not, but moreso they’re struggling to cope with their past.
It’s because of the dual storylines that Oculus feels so clever, yet I can’t help but feel they clash with each other as well. It’s also left me debating the ending, as I’ve formed a two opposing theories based the past and present. The scares are not what was advertised in the trailers, either. Oculus is far more about psychological and emotional horror than jump scares.
Oculus is an intelligent horror film, one that has left me pondering over the details for a while after initial viewing. But if I’m being honest, the dual plotlines of past and present Tim and Kaylie contrast maybe a little too well. I found myself more as a detached spectator rather than being fully immersed. The ending is a bit predictable too; you’ll likely call it almost from the start.