Two things about Oculus intrigued me enough to set aside the time to watch it. The first reason was it came heavily recommended to me, secondly, Mike Flanagan is the director. I enjoyed Absentia for its lofty aspirations, Oculus feels the opposite. It feels like a lazy story that doesn’t serve any sort of point. The film meanders back and forth between the two stories that would have been better as stand alone films.
Oclus follows Kaylie Russell (Annalise Basso, Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Garrett Ryan, Brenton Thwaites) in two different time periods. One in which they are children and first encounter the mirror, ending with the death of their parents Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie (Katee Sackhoff). In the other time period, both are now adults with Kaylie working in an auction house, and her brother being released from a mental hospital. The two reconnect briefly before Kaylie sets her plan in motion to get revenge on the evil presence within the mirror. Tim no longer believes the mirror to be evil after his time in the mental institution and that Kaylie is unstable. Saying “It runs in our family”. But that is quickly pushed aside as we learn that the mirror is indeed possessed and that the being inside warps peoples perceptions.
I want to like Oculus, I really do. It’s just too thin for me. I was entertained enough, I suppose, as I don’t regret watching it. I just feel I didn’t gain anything from doing so. I can’t pull any single moment from the film that I could declare as memorable and this is in large part due the film’s trailer.
It’s more than just that though, the acting never felt on point. Annalise Basso and Karen Gillan’s performances were a good example, Annalise delivers my favorite performance. While Karen Gillan’s performance is…. well, worse. But, not the worst in the film, that goes to Rory Cochrane. Karen Gillan comes off monotone and disingenuous to me. Rory Cochrane was handed a difficult task, to play a man slow becoming possessed and losing his mind. A job that has been handled in other films, but in those films this degradation is central to the film. Here, he has to do the same thing with only a third of the screen time and simply doesn’t deliver. He tries and it works, it just feels sloppy.
The film is well shot though and I love the use of the mirror. But as atmospheric as Oculus is, the story feels slovenly. By showing what should essentially be two movies, together and overlapping them, causes some issues for me. It spoils things from the beginning as we learn very quickly what happened to their parents, spoiling half the film’s climax. The other half relies on us having a connection to the characters involved. Which is hard to do when as part of the film’s premise is everything could be fake. This forces a disconnect for me. Once the it changes things and we can’t trust anything card was played my emotional commitment to the characters was over.
Final thoughts, if you’re interested in seeing Oculus I have once piece of advice. Don’t watch the trailer as it does a real good job at abbreviating the film down to a much more palatable two and half minutes. I also wan’t to saw while sloppy, disjointed and poorly delivered Oculus does try to tell a story. But it’s execution left me wanting and as such my score must reflect as much. 3/10