In 2013, I watched a film called Oculus which I really liked and then because of some reason that I don’t remember now, I just forgot to review it. Years later, I re-watched it today and was totally intrigued by it yet again. There aren’t too many horror films these days that tends to keep you intrigued even on the second viewing and makes you think about it. The story is as I call it, deliciously complicated. Kaylie (Karen Gillan) works at an antiquities dealer and has just landed with the possession of a mirror that she considers more than just a mirror. Her younger brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) was serving time at a correctional facility for murdering his father when he was a kid and has just been released.
Kaylie on the other hand believes that the murder was not committed by her brother but whatever he had done was under the influences of the evil mirror. Now that she has the mirror in her possession for a few days, she decides to go about proving her brother’s innocence by showing the world the supernatural traits of the mirror by capturing it on camera. However, her efforts to prove her brother’s innocence results in a chain of bizarre events which ultimately leaves her and her brother as devastated as they were before.
The film unfolds in two different time lines. While Kaylie and her brother take the newly acquired mirror to their old house where they record its activities throughout the time using a number of cameras, a parallel track shows us the story and events of their family, years earlier as they move into their new house and encounter the mirror for the first time. This story shows how their father was seduced by the supernatural presence in the mirror which made him do terrible things to their mother and ultimately was shot by Tim. Both the tracks intercut efficiently keeping you at the edge of your seats and not revealing its cards completely.
Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites are brilliant. The narrative of the film acquires seriousness from the manner in which they essay their roles. Even while explaining or exposing “over the top” things, they remain so sublime and believable that we as audiences buy into their story. The younger versions of the two lead actors are equally wonderful. Their essay is just as believable as that of their older selves. There is a scene where the two kids try to go into their mother’s room and help her out from their father’s tortures. What happens in this scene will send a shiver down your spine. Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane play the parents of the two kids. They are the biggest fear factors of the film. While Cochrane is gradually taken over by the supernatural, Sackhoff is brutally reduced to nothing. The way in which she is restrained and what she turns into is gruesome to watch.
I just loved the climax of the film. The two stories move restlessly though at a slow pace towards a fitting finale and both the stories culminate in an ending which was wonderfully executed. I wasn’t expecting what happened in the end and was really taken aback by it. The film is technically superb. It is beautifully shot with bright colors and deft lighting. The two stories are not too dissimilar in look and feel. However, the scenes involving the mirror and its super natural effects are marked by hues and shadows. Also the director does well to ignore the jump out of the seat scares and keep the proceedings fairly unnerving. I was scared to death at a scene where one of the cast members is shown to chew off a bulb.
Oculus is an unsettling and highly imaginative horror film. What works wonder for this film is not only the scares that it is able to extract but the sadness that is at the base of its characters. Every member of the cast is emotionally broken and has fears and that’s what makes the film that much more unsettling. The horror is real and a lot of question marks are raised and kept open about it which only goes on to make the horror that much more real. It is one of the better horror films of our times.