Oculus – a review

Finally went and saw Oculus last night. I’ve read a lot of reviews since I got home, and I don’t really understand what some of them were complaining about. Literally, one of them spent the entire time lamenting the fact that there wasn’t enough scary stuff, and that people were talking in the movie.

How dare a horror movie have people talk? The nerve.

The bad part of that criticism, of course, is that it misses the point entirely.

**SPOILERS** Duh, it’s a movie review for a film that’s been out for 3 weeks. There’s gonna be spoilers.

Kaylie and Tim (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites), adult siblings who as children watched their father (Rory Cochrane) become distant and obsessed with an ornate, antique mirror (the Lasser Glass), and kill their progressively paranoid and irrational (read:insane) mother (Katee Sackhoff), who has become equally obsessed with the mirror, but out of fear, not love, as has her husband. Got that?

Okay, let’s move on.

At age 10, Tim shot his father and was sentenced to a mental hospital until the age of 21. While inside, he has come to deal with what he believes happened when he was a child. His sister, Kaylie, however, has had to live and deal with her past while surviving in the foster care system. On his release, Kaylie tells Tim that she has obtained the Lasser Glass and intends to prove scientifically that it is what caused their father to kill their mother and Tim to kill their father, thereby exonerating the entire family.

Having researched the history of the Lasser Glass going back 400 years (but knowing nothing of its life before then), Kaylie recounts for multiple cameras the trail of death and destruction that has followed the mirror, while Tim attempts to convince her that mental illness runs in their family, and that they have simply made up the memories of the mirror in order to deal with the tragedy.

Here’s where some people started going off on the film. Too much exposition, blah blah blah. Whatever.

Did it ever occur to them that perhaps the filmmakers were trying to craft a legitimate psychological thriller, couched in a horror film? By casting everything in the early part of the movie as mental illness and coping mechanisms, the mental health of Tim, and especially Kaylie, is cast so far into doubt that even when signs begin to appear that the mirror is, in fact, haunted/possessed/whatever, that the doubt about their veracity still remains?

A case can be made that, even by the end of the film, it’s still just mental illness driving the entire movie.

And that’s the point. That uncertainty is what drives the entire film.

I think Oculus was brilliantly done, with its overlapping storylines of past and present (sometimes in the same frame) blending together so well, beautifully blurring the line between memory and delusion.

But that last shot….man. I think I saw one thing, but if I did, then it totally screws up the film, so I have to believe that I’m seeing it wrong, since no professional filmmaker could have missed so glaring a contradiction.

Otherwise, Oculus rates way up there for me. Way better than the Paranormal Activity films (which I liked the first 2.5 of, but haven’t seen The Marked Ones yet), and leaps and bounds past the steaming pile of crap that was The Purge. And, Dear God, I saw the trailer for The Purge: Anarchy before Oculus started. What a generic looking, even piece-of-crappier-looking film. What a great premise to be spoiled by such shitty stories.

But, as for Oculus: see it. You’ll like it.

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