Plot: Directed by Mike Flanagan, starring Karen Gillan (Amy from Doctor Who) as Kaylie, who believes an old mirror is responsible for her family tragedy. She convinces her brother to help prove the existence of and overcome the malevolent being that resides within it.
Thoughts on the film:
• The film is partially funded by WWE, but thankfully they had no wrestlers in this, as it’s a decent horror film! There is one sole reference – the mirror is from the Levesque house (the surname of WWE’s EVP Triple H aka Paul Levesque).
• The movie is shot in two parallel time frames, both in their family home: Current day with Kaylie and Tim in their 20s, trying to draw the being out, and 11 years ago with the two as children, showing the horrific events leading to their parents’ death.
• The two stories are slickly intertwined, filling in the backstory whilst mirroring events (sorry) in the current. This includes many seemless camera transitions between the two (eg Kaylie walks up the stairs whilst the young Tim walks down the steps, and we follow him now). It is jarring at first but as you settle into the film you can just enjoy it.
• The past story establishes tropes of the film: plants wither around the mirror, it can cause sensory-manipulation leading to self-harm/delusion, and it’s expanded on in current day (Kaylie sees a shattered plate, but refutes it as her camera phone sees nothing).
• It’s a dangerous game, but the film does a great job keeping you unsure of whether it’s real or an illusion, or whether what they see or the camera is showing is false. In other films it can fall on it’s face (see Hellraiser 7 & 8) but it works very well here.
• Tension is effectively built up and it doles out jump scares mixed with actual (unexpected) scary moments. I loved the “something’s moving in the mirror, look behind you” moments. There’s the annoying “let’s creep up on you and grab your shoulder” lazy jumps but they don’t detract much.
• Kicking off Act II, Kaylie lays out the rest of the film (to draw said spectre out and hopefully end it). I enjoyed the history/exposition of the being, her extra precautions and built-in fail-safes she put in place before starting. (Her boyfriend must ring her on the hour and call the police if she doesn’t answer, separate power sources, multiple cameras)
• In something that can only happen in TV/film, when confronted with supernatural vs a more grounded explanation (simply a bad marriage gone wrong) it’s gratifying to see proof that yes, it is the supernatural, in your face boring reality!
Some semi-spoilery nitpicks:
• Why is the film called Oculus (“Eye” in Latin) when it’s about a mirror? (i.e. it should be “Speculum” then!) Although there’s some visual deception and ghosts show up with freaky mirrored eyes.
• We get almost no information on the being (apart from I assume is the ghost of a woman named Marisol). If this film gets a sequel we’ll surely hear about it.
• Kaylie had many different devices to record but only had one plan to break the mirror. It felt she didn’t expect to be right on this one! These are nitpicks remember!
Overall: I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film and how effective it was cutting between two concurrent storylines about the same people. Good stuff! Recommended.